Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook

Dr. Maria Montessori






Publisher's Logo




Copyright, 1914, by
Frederick A. Stokes Company

All rights reserved, including that of translation
into foreign languages

May, 1914





As a result of the widespread interest that has
been taken in my method of child education, certain
books have been issued, which may appear to the
general reader to be authoritative expositions of the
Montessori system. I wish to state definitely that
the present work, the English translation of which
has been authorised and approved by me, is the only
authentic manual of the Montessori method, and that
the only other authentic or authorised works of mine
in the English language are “The Montessori
Method,” and “Pedagogical Anthropology.”

Signed: Maria Montessori



If a preface is a light which should serve to
illumine the contents of a volume, I choose, not
words, but human figures to illustrate this little
book intended to enter families where children are
growing up. I therefore recall here, as an eloquent
symbol, Helen Keller and Mrs. Anne Sullivan
Macy, who are, by their example, both teachers
to myself––and, before the world, living documents
of the miracle in education.

In fact, Helen Keller is a marvelous example of
the phenomenon common to all human beings: the
possibility of the liberation of the imprisoned
spirit of man by the education of the senses. Here
lies the basis of the method of education of which
the book gives a succinct idea.

If one only of the senses sufficed to make of
Helen Keller a woman of exceptional culture and
a writer, who better than she proves the potency
of that method of education which builds on
the senses? If Helen Keller attained through
exquisite natural gifts to an elevated conception
of the world, who better than she proves that in
the inmost self of man lies the spirit ready to
reveal itself?

Helen, clasp to your heart these little children,
since they, above all others, will understand you.
They are your younger brothers: when, with
bandaged eyes and in silence, they touch with
their little hands, profound impressions rise in
their consciousness, and they exclaim with a new
form of happiness: “I see with my hands.” They
alone, then, can fully understand the drama of the
mysterious privilege your soul has known. When,
in darkness and in silence, their spirit left free to
expand, their intellectual energy redoubled, they
become able to read and write without having
learnt, almost as it were by intuition, they, only
they, can understand in part the ecstasy which
God granted you on the luminous path of learning.

Maria Montessori.


Preface vii
Introductory Remarks 1
A “Children’s House” 9
The Method 17

Didactic Material for the Education of the Senses


Didactic Material for the Preparation for Writing and Arithmetic

Motor Education 18
Sensory Education 29
Language and Knowledge of the World 69
Freedom 77
Writing 80

Exercises for the Management of the Instrument of Writing


Exercises for the Writing of Alphabetical Signs

The Reading of Music 98
Arithmetic 102
Moral Factors 114


Dr. Maria Montessori Frontispiece



1. Cupboard with Apparatus 12
2. The Montessori Pædometer 13
3. Frames for Lacing and Buttoning 22
4. Child Buttoning On Frame 23
5. Cylinders Decreasing in Diameter only 30
6. Cylinders Decreasing in Diameter and Height 30
7. Cylinders Decreasing in Height only 30
8. Child using Case of Cylinders 31
9. The Tower 31
10. Child Playing with Tower 31
11. The Broad Stair 36
12. The Long Stair 36
13. Board with Rough and Smooth Surfaces 37
14. Board with Gummed Strips of Paper 37
15. Wood Tablets Differing in Weight 37
Color Spools 42
16. Cabinet with Drawers to hold Geometrical Insets 44
17. Set of Six Circles 44
18. Set of Six Rectangles 45
19. Set of Six Triangles 45
20. Set of Six Polygons 46
21. Set of Six Irregular Figures 46
22. Set of Four Blanks and Two Irregular Figures 47
23. Frame to hold Geometrical Insets 48
24. Child Touching the Insets 49
25. Series of Cards with Geometrical Forms 54
26. Sound Boxes 55
27. Musical Bells 60
28. Sloping Boards to Display Set of Metal Insets 90
29. Single Sandpaper Letter 90
30. Groups of Sandpaper Letters 91
31. Box of Movable Letters 94
32. The Musical Staff 98
33. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 100
34. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 100
35. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 100
36. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 101
37. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 101
38. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 101
39. Dumb Keyboard 102
40. Diagram Illustrating Use of Numerical Rods 107
41. Counting Boxes 110
42. Arithmetic Frame 110



Recent years have seen a remarkable improvement
in the conditions of child life. In all civilized
countries, but especially in England, statistics
show a decrease in infant mortality.

Related to this decrease in mortality a corresponding
improvement is to be seen in the physical
development of children; they are physically
finer and more vigorous. It has been the diffusion,
the popularization of science, which has
brought about such notable advantages. Mothers
have learned to welcome the dictates of modern
hygiene and to put them into practice in bringing
up their children. Many new social institutions
have sprung up and have been perfected with the
object of assisting children and protecting them
during the period of physical growth.

In this way what is practically a new race is
coming into being, a race more highly developed,
finer and more robust; a race which will be
capable of offering resistance to insidious disease.


What has science done to effect this? Science
has suggested for us certain very simple rules by
which the child has been restored as nearly as
possible to conditions of a natural life, and an
order and a guiding law have been given to the
functions of the body. For example, it is science
which suggested maternal feeding, the abolition of
swaddling clothes, baths, life in the open air, exercise,
simple short clothing, quiet and plenty of
sleep. Rules were also laid down for the measurement
of food adapting it rationally to the
physiological needs of the child’s life.

Yet with all this, science made no contribution
that was entirely new. Mothers had always
nursed their children, children had always been
clothed, they had breathed and eaten before.

The point is, that the same physical acts which,
performed blindly and without order, led to
disease and death, when ordered rationally were
the means of giving strength and life.

The great progress made may perhaps deceive
us into thinking that everything possible has been
done for children.

We have only to weigh the matter carefully,
however, to reflect: Are our children only those
healthy little bodies which to-day are growing
and developing so vigorously under our eyes?
Is their destiny fulfilled in the production of
beautiful human bodies?

In that case there would be little difference
between their lot and that of the animals which
we raise that we may have good meat or beasts
of burden.

Man’s destiny is evidently other than this, and
the care due to the child covers a field wider than
that which is considered by physical hygiene.
The mother who has given her child his bath and
sent him in his perambulator to the park has not
fulfilled the mission of the “mother of humanity.”
The hen which gathers her chickens together, and
the cat which licks her kittens and lavishes on
them such tender care, differ in no wise from the
human mother in the services they render.

No, the human mother if reduced to such limits
devotes herself in vain, feels that a higher aspiration
has been stifled within her. She is yet the
mother of man.

Children must grow not only in the body but in
the spirit, and the mother longs to follow the
mysterious spiritual journey of the beloved one
who to-morrow will be the intelligent, divine creation,

Science evidently has not finished its progress.
On the contrary, it has scarcely taken
the first step in advance, for it has hitherto
stopped at the welfare of the body. It must
continue, however, to advance; on the same positive
lines along which it has improved the
health and saved the physical life of the children,
it is bound in the future to benefit and to reenforce
their inner life, which is the real human life.
On the same positive lines science will proceed to
direct the development of the intelligence, of character,
and of those latent creative forces which lie
hidden in the marvelous embryo of man’s spirit.

As the child’s body must draw nourishment
and oxygen from its external environment,
in order to accomplish a great physiological
work, the work of growth, so also the spirit
must take from its environment the nourishment
which it needs to develop according to its
own “laws of growth.” It cannot be denied
that the phenomena of development are a great
work in themselves. The consolidation of the
bones, the growth of the whole body, the completion
of the minute construction of the brain,
the formation of the teeth, all these are very
real labors of the physiological organism, as is
also the transformation which the organism undergoes
during the period of puberty.

These exertions are very different from those
put forth by mankind in so-called external work,
that is to say, in “social production,” whether in
the schools where man is taught, or in the world
where, by the activity of his intelligence, he produces
wealth and transforms his environment.

It is none the less true, however, that they
are both “work.” In fact, the organism during
these periods of greatest physiological work is
least capable of performing external tasks, and
sometimes the work of growth is of such extent
and difficulty that the individual is overburdened,
as with an excessive strain, and for this reason
alone becomes exhausted or even dies.

Man will always be able to avoid “external
work” by making use of the labor of others, but
there is no possibility of shirking that inner work.
Together with birth and death it has been imposed
by nature itself, and each man must accomplish
it for himself. This difficult, inevitable
labor, this is the “work of the child.”

When we say then that little children should
rest, we are referring to one side only of the question
of work. We mean that they should rest
from that external visible work to which the little
child through his weakness and incapacity cannot
make any contribution useful either to himself or
to others.

Our assertion, therefore, is not absolute; the
child in reality is not resting, he is performing
the mysterious inner work of his autoformation.
He is working to make a man, and to accomplish
this it is not enough that the child’s body should
grow in actual size; the most intimate functions
of the motor and nervous systems must also be
established and the intelligence developed.

The functions to be established by the child fall
into two groups: (1) the motor functions by which
he is to secure his balance and learn to walk, and
to coordinate his movements; (2) the sensory
functions through which, receiving sensations
from his environment, he lays the foundations of
his intelligence by a continual exercise of observation,
comparison and judgment. In this way he
gradually comes to be acquainted with his environment
and to develop his intelligence.

At the same time he is learning a language, and
he is faced not only with the motor difficulties
of articulation, sounds and words, but also with
the difficulty of gaining an intelligent understanding
of names and of the syntactical composition of
the language.

If we think of an emigrant who goes to a new
country ignorant of its products, ignorant of its
natural appearance and social order, entirely ignorant
of its language, we realize that there is
an immense work of adaptation which he must
perform before he can associate himself with the
active life of the unknown people. No one will be
able to do for him that work of adaptation. He
himself must observe, understand, remember,
form judgments, and learn the new language by
laborious exercise and long experience.

What is to be said then of the child? What of
this emigrant who comes into a new world, who,
weak as he is and before his organism is completely
developed, must in a short time adapt himself
to a world so complex?

Up to the present day the little child has not
received rational aid in the accomplishment of
this laborious task. As regards the psychical development
of the child we find ourselves in a
period parallel to that in which the physical life
was left to the mercy of chance and instinct––the
period in which infant mortality was a scourge.

It is by scientific and rational means also that
we must facilitate that inner work of psychical
adaptation to be accomplished within the child,
a work which is by no means the same thing as
“any external work or production whatsoever.”

This is the aim which underlies my method of
infant education, and it is for this reason that
certain principles which it enunciates, together
with that part which deals with the technique of
their practical application, are not of a general
character, but have special reference to the particular
case of the child from three to seven years
of age, i.e., to the needs of a formative period
of life.

My method is scientific, both in its substance
and in its aim. It makes for the attainment of
a more advanced stage of progress, in directions
no longer only material and physiological. It is
an endeavor to complete the course which hygiene
has already taken, but in the treatment of the
physical side alone.

If to-day we possessed statistics respecting the
nervous debility, defects of speech, errors of perception
and of reasoning, and lack of character
in normal children, it would perhaps be interesting
to compare them with statistics of the same nature,
but compiled from the study of children who
have had a number of years of rational education.
In all probability we should find a striking resemblance
between such statistics and those to-day
available showing the decrease in mortality and
the improvement in the physical development of


The “Children’s House” is the environment
which is offered to the child that he may be given
the opportunity of developing his activities. This
kind of school is not of a fixed type, but may
vary according to the financial resources at
disposal and to the opportunities afforded by
the environment. It ought to be a real house;
that is to say, a set of rooms with a garden of
which the children are the masters. A garden
which contains shelters is ideal, because the children
can play or sleep under them, and can also
bring their tables out to work or dine. In this
way they may live almost entirely in the open air,
and are protected at the same time from rain and

The central and principal room of the building,
often also the only room at the disposal of the
children, is the room for “intellectual work.” To
this central room can be added other smaller
rooms according to the means and opportunities
of the place: for example, a bathroom, a dining-room,
a little parlor or common-room, a room
for manual work, a gymnasium and rest-room.

The special characteristic of the equipment of
these houses is that it is adapted for children
and not adults. They contain not only didactic
material specially fitted for the intellectual development
of the child, but also a complete equipment
for the management of the miniature family.
The furniture is light so that the children
can move it about, and it is painted in some light
color so that the children can wash it with soap
and water. There are low tables of various
sizes and shapes––square, rectangular and round,
large and small. The rectangular shape is the
most common as two or more children can work
at it together. The seats are small wooden
chairs, but there are also small wicker armchairs
and sofas.

Fig. 1.––Cupboard with Apparatus.

In the working-room there are two indispensable
pieces of furniture. One of these is a very
long cupboard with large doors. (Fig. 1.) It is
very low so that a small child can set on the top of
it small objects such as mats, flowers, etc. Inside
this cupboard is kept the didactic material which
is the common property of all the children.

The other is a chest of drawers containing two
or three columns of little drawers, each of which
has a bright handle (or a handle of some color
to contrast with the background), and a small
card with a name upon it. Every child has his
own drawer, in which to put things belonging to

Round the walls of the room are fixed blackboards
at a low level, so that the children can
write or draw on them, and pleasing, artistic pictures,
which are changed from time to time as
circumstances direct. The pictures represent
children, families, landscapes, flowers and fruit,
and more often Biblical and historical incidents.
Ornamental plants and flowering plants ought always
to be placed in the room where the children
are at work.

Another part of the working-room’s equipment
is seen in the pieces of carpet of various colors––red,
blue, pink, green and brown. The children
spread these rugs upon the floor, sit upon them
and work there with the didactic material. A
room of this kind is larger than the customary
class-rooms, not only because the little tables and
separate chairs take up more space, but also because
a large part of the floor must be free for the
children to spread their rugs and work upon them.

In the sitting-room, or “club-room,” a kind of
parlor in which the children amuse themselves
by conversation, games, or music, etc., the furnishings
should be especially tasteful. Little tables
of different sizes, little armchairs and sofas
should be placed here and there. Many brackets
of all kinds and sizes, upon which may be put
statuettes, artistic vases or framed photographs,
should adorn the walls; and, above all, each child
should have a little flower-pot, in which he may
sow the seed of some indoor plant, to tend and
cultivate it as it grows. On the tables of this sitting-room
should be placed large albums of
colored pictures, and also games of patience, or
various geometric solids, with which the children
can play at pleasure, constructing figures, etc. A
piano, or, better, other musical instruments, possibly
harps of small dimensions, made especially
for children, completes the equipment. In this
“club-room” the teacher may sometimes entertain
the children with stories, which will attract a circle
of interested listeners.

The furniture of the dining-room consists, in
addition to the tables, of low cupboards accessible
to all the children, who can themselves put in their
place and take away the crockery, spoons, knives
and forks, table-cloth and napkins. The plates
are always of china, and the tumblers and water-bottles
of glass. Knives are always included in
the table equipment.

The Dressing-room. Here each child has his
own little cupboard or shelf. In the middle of
the room there are very simple washstands,
consisting of tables, on each of which stand a
small basin, soap and nail-brush. Against the
wall stand little sinks with water-taps. Here the
children may draw and pour away their water.
There is no limit to the equipment of the “Children’s
Houses” because the children themselves
do everything. They sweep the rooms, dust and
wash the furniture, polish the brasses, lay and
clear away the table, wash up, sweep and roll up
the rugs, wash a few little clothes, and cook eggs.
As regards their personal toilet, the children know
how to dress and undress themselves. They
hang their clothes on little hooks, placed very low
so as to be within reach of a little child, or else
they fold up such articles of clothing, as their
little serving-aprons, of which they take great
care, and lay them inside a cupboard kept for the
household linen.

In short, where the manufacture of toys has
been brought to such a point of complication and
perfection that children have at their disposal entire
dolls’ houses, complete wardrobes for the
dressing and undressing of dolls, kitchens where
they can pretend to cook, toy animals as nearly
lifelike as possible, this method seeks to give all
this to the child in reality––making him an actor
in a living scene.

Fig 2.––The Montessori Paedometer.

My pedometer forms part of the equipment of
a “Children’s House.” After various modifications
I have now reduced this instrument to a very
practical form. (Fig. 2.)

The purpose of the pedometer, as its name
shows, is to measure the children. It consists of
a wide rectangular board, forming the base, from
the center of which rise two wooden posts held
together at the top by a narrow flat piece of metal.
To each post is connected a horizontal metal rod––the
indicator––which runs up and down by
means of a casing, also of metal. This metal casing
is made in one piece with the indicator, to the
end of which is fixed an india-rubber ball. On one
side, that is to say, behind one of the two tall
vertical wooden posts, there is a small seat, also
of wood. The two tall wooden posts are graduated.
The post to which the seat is fixed is
graduated from the surface of the seat to the top,
whilst the other is graduated from the wooden
board at the base to the top, i.e. to a height of 1.5
meters. On the side containing the seat the
height of the child seated is measured, on the
other side the child’s full stature. The practical
value of this instrument lies in the possibility of
measuring two children at the same time, and in
the fact that the children themselves cooperate
in taking the measurements. In fact, they learn
to take off their shoes and to place themselves
in the correct position on the pedometer. They
find no difficulty in raising and lowering the
metal indicators, which are held so firmly in place
by means of the metal casing that they cannot
deviate from their horizontal position even when
used by inexpert hands. Moreover they run extremely
easily, so that very little strength is required
to move them. The little india-rubber
balls prevent the children from hurting themselves
should they inadvertently knock their heads
against the metal indicator.

The children are very fond of the pedometer.
“Shall we measure ourselves?” is one of the proposals
which they make most willingly and with
the greatest likelihood of finding many of their
companions to join them. They also take great
care of the pedometer, dusting it, and polishing
its metal parts. All the surfaces of the pedometer
are so smooth and well polished that they invite
the care that is taken of them, and by their
appearance when finished fully repay the trouble

The pedometer represents the scientific part
of the method, because it has reference to the
anthropological and psychological study made of
the children, each of whom has his own biographical
record. This biographical record follows
the history of the child’s development according
to the observations which it is possible to
make by the application of my method. This
subject is dealt with at length in my other
books. A series of cinematograph pictures has
been taken of the pedometer at a moment when
the children are being measured. They are seen
coming of their own accord, even the very smallest,
to take their places at the instrument.


The technique of my method as it follows the
guidance of the natural physiological and psychical
development of the child, may be divided
into three parts:

  • Motor education.
  • Sensory education.
  • Language.

The care and management of the environment
itself afford the principal means of motor education,
while sensory education and the education
of language are provided for by my didactic material.

The didactic material for the education of the
consists of:

  • (a)  Three sets of solid insets.
  • (b)  Three sets of solids in graduated sizes, comprising:
    1. Pink cubes.
    2. Brown prisms.
    3. Rods: (a) colored green; (b) colored
      alternately red and blue.
  • (c)  Various geometric solids (prism, pyramid,
    sphere, cylinder, cone, etc.).
  • (d)  Rectangular tablets with rough and smooth
  • (e)  A collection of various stuffs.
  • (f)  Small wooden tablets of different weights.
  • (g)  Two boxes, each containing sixty-four
    colored tablets.
  • 19
    (h)  A chest of drawers containing plane insets.
  • (i)  Three series of cards on which are pasted
    geometrical forms in paper.
  • (k)  A collection of cylindrical closed boxes
  • (l)  A double series of musical bells, wooden
    boards on which are painted the lines
    used in music, small wooden discs for the

Didactic Material for the Preparation for Writing
and Arithmetic

  • (m)  Two sloping desks and various iron insets.
  • (n)  Cards on which are pasted sandpaper letters.
  • (o)  Two alphabets of colored cardboard and
    of different sizes.
  • (p)  A series of cards on which are pasted sandpaper
    figures (1, 2, 3, etc.).
  • (q)  A series of large cards bearing the same
    figures in smooth paper for the enumeration
    of numbers above ten.
  • (r)  Two boxes with small sticks for counting.
  • (s)  The volume of drawings belonging specially
    to the method, and colored pencils.
  • 20
    (t)  The frames for lacing, buttoning, etc., which
    are used for the education of the movements
    of the hand.


The education of the movements is very complex,
as it must correspond to all the coordinated
movements which the child has to establish in
his physiological organism. The child, if left
without guidance, is disorderly in his movements,
and these disorderly movements are the special
characteristic of the little child.
In fact, he
“never keeps still,” and “touches everything.”
This is what forms the child’s so-called “unruliness”
and “naughtiness.”

The adult would deal with him by checking
these movements, with the monotonous and useless
repetition “keep still.” As a matter of fact,
in these movements the little one is seeking the
very exercise which will organize and coordinate
the movements useful to man. We must, therefore,
desist from the useless attempt to reduce the
child to a state of immobility. We should rather
give “order” to his movements, leading them
to those actions towards which his efforts are
actually tending. This is the aim of muscular
education at this age. Once a direction is given
to them, the child’s movements are made towards
a definite end, so that he himself grows quiet and
contented, and becomes an active worker, a being
calm and full of joy. This education of the movements
is one of the principal factors in producing
that outward appearance of “discipline” to be
found in the “Children’s Houses.” I have already
spoken at length on this subject in my other books.

Muscular education has reference to:

  • The primary movements of everyday life (walking, rising, sitting,
    handling objects).
  • The care of the person.
  • Management of the household.
  • Gardening.
  • Manual work.
  • Gymnastic exercises.
  • Rhythmic movements.

Fig. 3.––Frames for Lacing and Buttoning.

In the care of the person the first step is that
of dressing and undressing. For this end there is
in my didactic material a collection of frames to
which are attached pieces of stuff, leather, etc.
These can be buttoned, hooked, tied together––in
fact, joined in all the different ways which our
civilization has invented for fastening our clothing,
shoes, etc. (Fig. 3.) The teacher, sitting by
the child’s side, performs the necessary movements
of the fingers very slowly and deliberately,
separating the movements themselves into their
different parts, and letting them be seen clearly
and minutely.

For example, one of the first actions will be the
adjustment of the two pieces of stuff in such a
way that the edges to be fastened together touch
one another from top to bottom. Then, if it is
a buttoning-frame, the teacher will show the child
the different stages of the action. She will take
hold of the button, set it opposite the buttonhole,
make it enter the buttonhole completely, and adjust
it carefully in its place above. In the same
way, to teach a child to tie a bow, she will separate
the stage in which he ties the ribbons together
from that in which he makes the bows.

In the cinematograph film there is a picture
which shows an entire lesson in the tying of the
bows with the ribbons. These lessons are not
necessary for all the children, as they learn from
one another, and of their own accord come with
great patience to analyze the movements, performing
them separately very slowly and carefully.
The child can sit in a comfortable position
and hold his frame on the table. (Fig. 4.) As he
fastens and unfastens the same frame many times
over with great interest, he acquires an unusual
deftness of hand, and becomes possessed with the
desire to fasten real clothes whenever he has the
opportunity. We see the smallest children wanting
to dress themselves and their companions.
They go in search of amusement of this kind, and
defend themselves with all their might against the
adult who would try to help them.

Fig. 4.––Child Buttoning On Frame. (Photo Taken At Mr. Hawker’s School At Runton.)

In the same way for the teaching of the other
and larger movements, such as washing, setting
the table, etc., the directress must at the beginning
intervene, teaching the child with few or no
words at all, but with very precise actions. She
teaches all the movements: how to sit, to rise from
one’s seat, to take up and lay down objects, and
to offer them gracefully to others. In the same
way she teaches the children to set the plates one
upon the other and lay them on the table without
making any noise.

The children learn easily and show an interest
and surprising care in the performance of these
actions. In classes where there are many children
it is necessary to arrange for the children
to take turns in the various household duties,
such as housework, serving at table, and washing
dishes. The children readily respect such a
system of turns. There is no need to ask them
to do this work, for they come spontaneously––even
little ones of two and a half years old––to
offer to do their share, and it is frequently
most touching to watch their efforts to imitate,
to remember, and, finally, to conquer their difficulty.
Professor Jacoby, of New York, was once
much moved as he watched a child, who was
little more than two years old and not at all intelligent
in appearance, standing perplexed, because
he could not remember whether the fork
should be set at the right hand or the left. He
remained a long while meditating and evidently
using all the powers of his mind. The other children
older than he watched him with admiration,
marveling, like ourselves, at the life developing
under our eyes.

The instructions of the teacher consist then
merely in a hint, a touch––enough to give a start
to the child. The rest develops of itself. The
children learn from one another and throw themselves
into the work with enthusiasm and delight.
This atmosphere of quiet activity develops a fellow-feeling,
an attitude of mutual aid, and, most
wonderful of all, an intelligent interest on the part
of the older children in the progress of their little
companions. It is enough just to set a child in
these peaceful surroundings for him to feel perfectly
at home. In the cinematograph pictures
the actual work in a “Children’s House” may be
seen. The children are moving about, each one
fulfilling his own task, whilst the teacher is in a
corner watching. Pictures were taken also of the
children engaged in the care of the house, that is,
in the care both of their persons and of their surroundings.
They can be seen washing their faces,
polishing their shoes, washing the furniture,
polishing the metal indicators of the pedometer,
brushing the carpets, etc. In the work of laying
the table the children are seen quite by themselves,
dividing the work among themselves, carrying the
plates, spoons, knives and forks, etc., and, finally,
sitting down at the tables where the little waitresses
serve the hot soup.


Again, gardening and manual work are a great
pleasure to our children. Gardening is already
well known as a feature of infant education, and
it is recognized by all that plants and animals
attract the children’s care and attention. The
ideal of the “Children’s Houses” in this respect is
to imitate the best in the present usage of those
schools which owe their inspiration more or less
to Mrs. Latter.

For manual instruction we have chosen clay
work, consisting of the construction of little tiles,
vases and bricks. These may be made with the
help of simple instruments, such as molds. The
completion of the work should be the aim always
kept in view, and, finally, all the little objects
made by the children should be glazed and baked
in the furnace. The children themselves learn
to line a wall with shining white or colored tiles
wrought in various designs, or, with the help of
mortar and a trowel, to cover the floor with little
bricks. They also dig out foundations and then
use their bricks to build division walls, or entire
little houses for the chickens.

Among the gymnastic exercises that which
must be considered the most important is that of
the “line.” A line is described in chalk or paint
upon a large space of floor. Instead of one line,
there may also be two concentric lines, elliptical
in form. The children are taught to walk upon
these lines like tight-rope walkers, placing their
feet one in front of the other. To keep their
balance they make efforts exactly similar to those
of real tight-rope walkers, except that they have
no danger with which to reckon, as the lines are
only drawn upon the floor. The teacher herself
performs the exercise, showing clearly how she
sets her feet, and the children imitate her without
any necessity for her to speak. At first it is only
certain children who follow her, and when she
has shown them how to do it, she withdraws,
leaving the phenomenon to develop of itself.

The children for the most part continue to walk,
adapting their feet with great care to the movement
they have seen, and making efforts to keep
their balance so as not to fall. Gradually the
other children draw near and watch and also
make an attempt. Very little time elapses before
the whole of the two ellipses or the one line is
covered with children balancing themselves, and
continuing to walk round, watching their feet
with an expression of deep attention on their

Music may then be used. It should be a very
simple march, the rhythm of which is not obvious
at first, but which accompanies and enlivens the
spontaneous efforts of the children.

When they have learned in this way to master
their balance the children have brought the act
of walking to a remarkable standard of perfection,
and have acquired, in addition to security and
composure in their natural gait, an unusually
graceful carriage of the body. The exercise on
the line can afterwards be made more complicated
in various ways. The first application is that of
calling forth rhythmic exercise by the sound of a
march upon the piano. When the same march
is repeated during several days, the children end
by feeling the rhythm and by following it with
movements of their arms and feet. They also accompany
the exercises on the line with songs.

Little by little the music is understood by the
children. They finish, as in Miss George’s school
at Washington, by singing over their daily work
with the didactic material. The “Children’s
House,” then, resembles a hive of bees humming
as they work.

As to the little gymnasium, of which I speak in
my book on the “Method,” one piece of apparatus
is particularly practical. This is the “fence,”
from which the children hang by their arms, freeing
their legs from the heavy weight of the body
and strengthening the arms. This fence has also
the advantage of being useful in a garden for the
purpose of dividing one part from another, as,
for example, the flower-beds from the garden
walks, and it does not detract in any way from
the appearance of the garden.


Fig. 5.––Cylinders Decreasing in Diameter only.

Fig. 6.––Cylinders Decreasing in Diameter and Height.

Fig. 7.––Cylinders Decreasing in Height only.

My didactic material offers to the child the
means for what may be called “sensory education.”

In the box of material the first three objects
which are likely to attract the attention of a little
child from two and a half to three years old are
three solid pieces of wood, in each of which is
inserted a row of ten small cylinders, or sometimes
discs, all furnished with a button for a
handle. In the first case there is a row of cylinders
of the same height, but with a diameter which
decreases from thick to thin. (Fig. 5.) In the
second there are cylinders which decrease in all dimensions,
and so are either larger or smaller, but
always of the same shape. (Fig. 6.)

Lastly, in the third case, the cylinders have the
same diameter but vary in height, so that, as the
size decreases, the cylinder gradually becomes a
little disc in form. (Fig. 7.)

The first cylinders vary in two dimensions (the
section); the second in all three dimensions; the
third in one dimension (height). The order
which I have given refers to the degree of ease
with which the child performs the exercises.

The exercise consists in taking out the cylinders,
mixing them and putting them back in the
right place. It is performed by the child as he
sits in a comfortable position at a little table.
He exercises his hands in the delicate act of taking
hold of the button with the tips of one or two
fingers, and in the little movements of the hand
and arm as he mixes the cylinders, without letting
them fall
and without making too much noise and
puts them back again each in its own place.


In these exercises the teacher may, in the first
instance, intervene, merely taking out the cylinders,
mixing them carefully on the table and then
showing the child that he is to put them back, but
without performing the action herself. Such intervention,
however, is almost always found
to be unnecessary, for the children see their companions
at work, and thus are encouraged to imitate

They like to do it alone; in fact, sometimes almost
in private for fear of inopportune help.
(Fig. 8.)

Fig. 8.––Child using Case of Cylinders.

But how is the child to find the right place
for each of the little cylinders which lie mixed
upon the table? He first makes trials; it often
happens that he places a cylinder which is too
large for the empty hole over which he puts it.
Then, changing its place, he tries others until
the cylinder goes in. Again, the contrary may
happen; that is to say, the cylinder may slip
too easily into a hole too big for it. In that
case it has taken a place which does not belong
to it at all, but to a larger cylinder. In
this way one cylinder at the end will be left out
without a place, and it will not be possible to find
one that fits. Here the child cannot help seeing
his mistake in concrete form. He is perplexed, his
little mind is faced with a problem which interests
him intensely. Before, all the cylinders fitted, now
there is one that will not fit. The little one stops,
frowning, deep in thought. He begins to feel the
little buttons and finds that some cylinders have
too much room. He thinks that perhaps they are
out of their right place and tries to place them
correctly. He repeats the process again and
again, and finally he succeeds. Then it is that he
breaks into a smile of triumph. The exercise
arouses the intelligence of the child; he wants to
repeat it right from the beginning and, having
learned by experience, he makes another attempt.
Little children from three to three and a half years
old have repeated the exercise up to forty times
without losing their interest in it.

If the second set of cylinders and then the
third are presented, the change of shape strikes
the child and reawakens his interest.

The material which I have described serves to
educate the eye to distinguish difference in dimension,
for the child ends by being able to recognize
at a glance the larger or the smaller hole
which exactly fits the cylinder which he holds in
his hand. The educative process is based on this:
that the control of the error lies in the material
, and the child has concrete evidence of

The desire of the child to attain an end
which he knows, leads him to correct himself. It
is not a teacher who makes him notice his mistake
and shows him how to correct it, but it is a
complex work of the child’s own intelligence
which leads to such a result.

Hence at this point there begins the process of

The aim is not an external one, that is to
say, it is not the object that the child should learn
how to place the cylinders, and that he should know
how to perform an exercise

The aim is an inner one, namely, that the child
train himself to observe; that he be led to make
comparisons between objects, to form judgments,
to reason and to decide; and it is in the indefinite
repetition of this exercise of attention and of
intelligence that a real development ensues.

Fig. 9.––The Tower.

The series of objects to follow after the cylinders
consists of three sets of geometrical solid

(1) Ten wooden cubes colored pink. The
sides of the cubes diminish from ten centimeters
to one centimeter. (Fig. 9.)

With these cubes the child builds a tower, first
laying on the ground (upon a carpet) the largest
cube, and then placing on the top of it all the
others in their order of size to the very smallest.
(Fig. 10.) As soon as he has built the tower, the
child, with a blow of his hand, knocks it down, so
that the cubes are scattered on the carpet, and
then he builds it up again.

Fig. 10.––Child Playing with Tower. (Photo taken at Mr. Hawker’s School at Runton.)

Fig. 11.––The Broad Stair.

Fig. 12.––The Long Stair.

(2) Ten wooden prisms, colored brown. The
length of the prisms is twenty centimeters, and
the square section diminishes from ten centimeters
a side to the smallest, one centimeter a
side. (Fig. 11.)

The child scatters the ten pieces over a light-colored
carpet, and then beginning sometimes with
the thickest, sometimes with the thinnest, he
places them in their right order of gradation upon
a table.

(3) Ten rods, colored green, or alternately
red and blue, all of which have the same square
section of four centimeters a side, but vary by ten
centimeters in length from ten centimeters to one
meter. (Fig. 12.)

The child scatters the ten rods on a large carpet
and mixes them at random, and, by comparing
rod with rod, he arranges them according to their
order of length, so that they take the form of a
set of organ pipes.

As usual, the teacher, by doing the exercises
herself, first shows the child how the pieces of
each set should be arranged, but it will often
happen that the child learns, not directly from
her, but by watching his companions. She will,
however, always continue to watch the children,
never losing sight of their efforts, and any correction
of hers will be directed more towards preventing
rough or disorderly use of the material
than towards any error which the child may make
in placing the rods in their order of gradation.
The reason is that the mistakes which the
child makes, by placing, for example, a small cube
beneath one that is larger, are caused by his own
lack of education, and it is the repetition of the
which, by refining his powers of observation,
will lead him sooner or later to correct
himself. Sometimes it happens that a child working
with the long rods makes the most glaring
mistakes. As the aim of the exercise, however,
is not that the rods be arranged in the right order
of gradation, but that the child should practise
by himself
, there is no need to intervene.

One day the child will arrange all the rods in
their right order, and then, full of joy, he will
call the teacher to come and admire them. The
object of the exercise will thus be achieved.

These three sets, the cubes, the prisms, and the
rods, cause the child to move about and to handle
and carry objects which are difficult for him to
grasp with his little hand. Again, by their use,
he repeats the training of the eye to the recognition
of differences of size between similar objects.
The exercise would seem easier, from the sensory
point of view, than the other with the cylinders
described above.

As a matter of fact, it is more difficult, as there
is no control of the error in the material itself.
It is the child’s eye alone which can furnish the

Hence the difference between the objects should
strike the eye at once; for that reason larger
objects are used, and the necessary visual power
presupposes a previous preparation (provided for
in the exercise with the solid insets).

Fig. 13.––Board with Rough and Smooth Surfaces.

During the same period the child can be doing
other exercises. Among the material is to be
found a small rectangular board, the surface of
which is divided into two parts––rough and
smooth. (Fig. 13.) The child knows already how
to wash his hands with cold water and soap; he
then dries them and dips the tips of his fingers for
a few seconds in tepid water. Graduated exercises
for the thermic sense may also have their
place here, as has been explained in my book on
the “Method.”

After this, the child is taught to pass the soft
cushioned tips of his fingers as lightly as possible
over the two separate surfaces, that he may
appreciate their difference. The delicate movement
backwards and forwards of the suspended
hand, as it is brought into light contact with the
surface, is an excellent exercise in control. The
little hand, which has just been cleansed and given
its tepid bath, gains much in grace and beauty,
and the whole exercise is the first step in the education
of the “tactile sense,” which holds such an
important place in my method.

When initiating the child into the education
of the sense of touch, the teacher must always
take an active part the first time; not only must
she show the child “how it is done,” her interference
is a little more definite still, for she takes
hold of his hand and guides it to touch the surfaces
with the finger-tips in the lightest possible
way. She will make no explanations; her words
will be rather to encourage the child with his
hand to perceive the different sensations.

When he has perceived them, it is then that he
repeats the act by himself in the delicate way
which he has been taught.

Fig. 14.––Board with Gummed Strips of Paper.

After the board with the two contrasting surfaces,
the child is offered another board on which
are gummed strips of paper which are rough or
smooth in different degrees. (Fig. 14.)

Graduated series of sandpaper cards are also
given. The child perfects himself by exercises in
touching these surfaces, not only refining his capacity
for perceiving tactile differences which are
always growing more similar, but also perfecting
the movement of which he is ever gaining
greater mastery.

Following these is a series of stuffs of every
kind: velvets, satins, silks, woolens, cottons,
coarse and fine linens. There are two similar
pieces of each kind of stuff, and they are of
bright and vivid colors.

The child is now taught a new movement.
Where before he had to touch, he must now feel
the stuffs, which, according to the degree of fineness
or coarseness from coarse cotton to fine silk,
are felt with movements correspondingly decisive
or delicate. The child whose hand is already
practised finds the greatest pleasure in feeling
the stuffs, and, almost instinctively, in order to
enhance his appreciation of the tactile sensation
he closes his eyes. Then, to spare himself the exertion,
he blindfolds himself with a clean handkerchief,
and as he feels the stuffs, he arranges the
similar pieces in pairs, one upon the other, then,
taking off the handkerchief, he ascertains for himself
whether he has made any mistake.

This exercise in touching and feeling is peculiarly
attractive to the child, and induces him to
seek similar experiences in his surroundings. A
little one, attracted by the pretty stuff of a visitor’s
dress, will be seen to go and wash his hands, then
to come and touch the stuff of the garment again
and again with infinite delicacy, his face meanwhile
expressing his pleasure and interest.

A little later we shall see the children interest
themselves in a much more difficult exercise.

Fig. 15.––Wood Tablets Differing in Weight.

There are some little rectangular tablets which
form part of the material. (Fig. 15.) The tablets,
though of identical size, are made of wood of
varying qualities, so that they differ in weight
and, through the property of the wood, in color

The child has to take a tablet and rest it delicately
on the inner surfaces of his four fingers,
spreading them well out. This will be another
opportunity of teaching delicate movements.

The hand must move up and down as though
to weigh the object, but the movement must be
as imperceptible as possible. These little movements
should diminish as the capacity and attention
for perceiving the weight of the object becomes
more acute and the exercise will be perfectly
performed when the child comes to perceive
the weight almost without any movement of
the hands. It is only by the repetition of the attempts
that such a result can be obtained.

Once the children are initiated into it by the
teacher, they blindfold their eyes and repeat by
themselves these exercises of the baric sense.
For example, they lay the heavier wooden
tablets on the right and the lighter on the left.

When the child takes off the handkerchief, he
can see by the color of the pieces of wood if
he has made a mistake.

A long time before this difficult exercise, and
during the period when the child is working with
the three sorts of geometrical solids and with the
rough and smooth tablets, he can be exercising himself
with a material which is very attractive to

This is the set of tablets covered with bright
silk of shaded colors. The set consists of two
separate boxes each containing sixty-four colors;
that is, eight different tints, each of which
has eight shades carefully graded. The first exercise
for the child is that of pairing the colors;
that is, he selects from a mixed heap of colors
the two tablets which are alike, and lays them out,
one beside the other. The teacher naturally does
not offer the child all the one hundred and twenty-eight
tablets in a heap, but chooses only a few
of the brighter colors, for example, red, blue and
yellow, and prepares and mixes up three or four
pairs. Then, taking one tablet––perhaps the red
one––she indicates to the child that he is to choose
its counterpart from the heap. This done, the
teacher lays the pair together on the table.
Then she takes perhaps the blue and the child
selects the tablet to form another pair. The
teacher then mixes the tablets again for the child
to repeat the exercise by himself, i.e., to select
the two red tablets, the two blue, the two yellow,
etc., and to place the two members of each pair
next to one another.

Then the couples will be increased to four or
five, and little children of three years old end by
pairing of their own accord ten or a dozen couples
of mixed tablets.


When the child has given his eye sufficient
practise in recognizing the identity of the pairs
of colors, he is offered the shades of one color
only, and he exercises himself in the perception
of the slightest differences of shade in every
color. Take, for example, the blue series. There
are eight tablets in graduated shades. The
teacher places them one beside another, beginning
with the darkest, with the sole object of making
the child understand “what is to be done.”

She then leaves him alone to the interesting
attempts which he spontaneously makes. It
often happens that the child makes a mistake.
If he has understood the idea and makes a mistake,
it is a sign that he has not yet reached the
of perceiving the differences between the
graduations of one color. It is practise which
perfects in the child that capacity for distinguishing
the fine differences, and so we leave him alone
to his attempts!

There are two suggestions that we can make
to help him. The first is that he should always
select the darkest color from the pile. This
suggestion greatly facilitates his choice by giving
it a constant direction.

Secondly, we can lead him to observe from time
to time any two colors that stand next to each
other in order to compare them directly and apart
from the others. In this way the child does not
place a tablet without a particular and careful
comparison with its neighbor.

Finally, the child himself will love to mix the
sixty-four colors and then to arrange them in
eight rows of pretty shades of color with really
surprising skill. In this exercise also the child’s
hand is educated to perform fine and delicate
movements and his mind is afforded special training
in attention. He must not take hold of the
tablets anyhow, he must avoid touching the colored
silk, and must handle the tablets instead by
the pieces of wood at the top and bottom. To arrange
the tablets next to one another in a straight
line at exactly the same level, so that the series
looks like a beautiful shaded ribbon, is an act
which demands a manual skill only obtained after
considerable practise.

These exercises of the chromatic sense lead, in
the case of the older children, to the development
of the “color memory.” A child having looked
carefully at a color, is then invited to look for its
companion in a mixed group of colors, without,
of course, keeping the color he has observed
under his eye to guide him. It is, therefore,
by his memory that he recognizes the color,
which he no longer compares with a reality but
with an image impressed upon his mind.

The children are very fond of this exercise in
“color memory”; it makes a lively digression
for them, as they run with the image of a
color in their minds and look for its corresponding
reality in their surroundings. It is a real
triumph for them to identify the idea with the
corresponding reality and to hold in their hands
the proof of the mental power they have acquired.

Another interesting piece of material is a little
cabinet containing six drawers placed one above
another. When they are opened they display six
square wooden “frames” in each. (Fig. 16.)

Fig. 16.––Cabinet with Drawers to hold Geometrical Insets.

Almost all the frames have a large geometrical
figure inserted in the center, each colored blue
and provided with a small button for a handle.
Each drawer is lined with blue paper, and when
the geometrical figure is removed, the bottom is
seen to reproduce exactly the same form.


The geometrical figures are arranged in the
drawers according to analogy of form.

(1) In one drawer there are six circles decreasing
in diameter. (Fig. 17.)

Fig. 17.––Set of Six Circles.

(2) In another there is a square, together with
five rectangles in which the length is always equal
to the side of the square while the breadth gradually
decreases. (Fig. 18.)

Fig. 18.––Set of Six Rectangles.

(3) Another drawer contains six triangles,
which vary either according to their sides or according
to their angles (the equilateral, isosceles,
scalene, right angled, obtuse angled, and acute
angled). (Fig. 19.)

Fig. 19.––Set of Six Triangles.

(4) In another drawer there are six regular
polygons containing from five to ten sides, i.e.,
the pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon,
and decagon. (Fig. 20.)

Fig. 20.––Set of Six Polygons.

(5) Another drawer contains various figures:
an oval, an ellipse, a rhombus, and a trapezoid.
(Fig. 21.)

Fig. 21.––Set of Six Irregular Figures.

(6) Finally, there are four plain wooden
tablets, i.e., without any geometrical inset, which
should have no button fixed to them; also two
other irregular geometrical figures. (Fig. 22.)

Fig. 22.––Set of Four Blanks and Two Irregular Figures.

Connected with this material there is a wooden
frame furnished with a kind of rack which opens
like a lid, and serves, when shut, to keep firmly
in place six of the insets which may be arranged
on the bottom of the frame itself, entirely
covering it. (Fig. 23.)

Fig. 23.––Frame to hold Geometrical Insets.

This frame is used for the preparation of the
first presentation to the child of the plane geometrical

The teacher may select according to her own
judgment certain forms from among the whole
series at her disposal.

At first it is advisable to show the child only
a few figures which differ very widely from one
another in form. The next step is to present a
larger number of figures, and after this to present
consecutively figures more and more similar in

The first figures to be arranged in the frame
will be, for example, the circle and the equilateral
triangle, or the circle, the triangle and the square.
The spaces which are left should be covered with
the tablets of plain wood. Gradually the frame
is completely filled with figures; first, with very
dissimilar figures, as, for example, a square, a
very narrow rectangle, a triangle, a circle, an
ellipse and a hexagon, or with other figures in

Afterwards the teacher’s object will be to arrange
figures similar to one another in the frame,
as, for example, the set of six rectangles, six
triangles, six circles, varying in size, etc.

This exercise resembles that of the cylinders.
The insets are held by the buttons and taken from
their places. They are then mixed on the table
and the child is invited to put them back in their
places. Here also the control of the error is in
the material, for the figure cannot be inserted
perfectly except when it is put in its own place.
Hence a series of “experiments,” of “attempts”
which end in victory. The child is led to compare
the various forms; to realize in a concrete
way the differences between them when an inset
wrongly placed will not go into the aperture. In
this way he educates his eye to the recognition of

Fig. 24.––Child Touching the Insets. (Montessori School, Runton.)

The new movement of the hand which the child
must coordinate is of particular importance. He
is taught to touch the outline of the geometrical
with the soft tips of the index and middle
finger of the right hand, or of the left as well, if
one believes in ambidexterity. (Fig. 24.) The
child is made to touch the outline, not only of the
inset, but also of the corresponding aperture, and,
only after having touched them, is he to put back
the inset into its place.

The recognition of the form is rendered much
easier in this way. Children who evidently do not
recognize the identities of form by the eye and who
make absurd attempts to place the most diverse
figures one within the other, do recognize the
forms after having touched their outlines, and
arrange them very quickly in their right places.

The child’s hand during this exercise of touching
the outlines of the geometrical figures has a
concrete guide in the object. This is especially
true when he touches the frames, for his two
fingers have only to follow the edge of the frame,
which acts as an obstacle and is a very clear
guide. The teacher must always intervene at
the start to teach accurately this movement,
which will have such an importance in the
future. She must, therefore, show the child how
to touch
, not only by performing the movement
herself slowly and clearly, but also by guiding the
child’s hand itself during his first attempts, so
that he is sure to touch all the details––angles and
sides. When his hand has learned to perform
these movements with precision and accuracy, he
will be really capable of following the outline of
a geometrical figure, and through many repetitions
of the exercise he will come to coordinate the
movement necessary for the exact delineation of
its form.

This exercise could be called an indirect but
very real preparation for drawing. It is certainly
the preparation of the hand to trace an enclosed
. The little hand which touches,
feels, and knows how to follow a determined outline
is preparing itself, without knowing it, for

The children make a special point of touching
the outlines of the plane insets with accuracy.
They themselves have invented the exercise of
blindfolding their eyes so as to recognize the
forms by touch only, taking out and putting back
the insets without seeing them.

Fig. 25.––Series of Cards with Geometrical Forms.

Corresponding to every form reproduced in the
plane insets there are three white cards square in
shape and of exactly the same size as the wooden
frames of the insets. These cards are kept in
three special cardboard boxes, almost cubic in
form. (Fig. 25.)

On the cards are repeated, in three series, the
same geometrical forms as those of the plane
insets. The same measurements of the figures
also are exactly reproduced.

In the first series the forms are filled in, i.e.,
they are cut out in blue paper and gummed on
to the card; in the second series there is only an
outline about half a centimeter in width, which
is cut out in the same blue paper and gummed to
the card; in the third series, however, the geometrical
figures are instead outlined only in black

By the use of this second piece of the material,
the exercise of the eye is gradually brought to
perfection in the recognition of “plane forms.”
In fact, there is no longer the concrete control of
error in the material as there was in the wooden
insets, but the child, by his eye alone, must judge
of identities of form when, instead of fitting the
wooden forms into their corresponding apertures,
he simply rests them on the cardboard figure.


Again, the refinement of the eye’s power of discrimination
increases every time the child passes
from one series of cards to the next, and by the
time that he has reached the third series, he can
see the relation between a wooden object, which
he holds in his hand, and an outline drawing; that
is, he can connect the concrete reality with an abstraction.
The line now assumes in his eyes a
very definite meaning; and he accustoms himself
to recognize, to interpret and to judge of forms
contained by a simple outline.

The exercises are various; the children themselves
invent them. Some love to spread out a
number of the figures of the geometric insets before
their eyes, and then, taking a handful of the
cards and mixing them like playing cards, deal
them out as quickly as possible, choosing the
figures corresponding to the pieces. Then as a
test of their choice, they place the wooden pieces
upon the forms on the cards. At this exercise
they often cover whole tables, putting the wooden
figures above, and beneath each one in a vertical
line, the three corresponding forms of the cardboard

Another game invented by the children consists
in putting out and mixing all the cards of the three
series on two or three adjoining tables. The
child then takes a wooden geometrical form and
places it, as quickly as possible, on the corresponding
cards which he has recognized at a
glance among all the rest.

Four or five children play this game together,
and as soon as one of them has found, for example,
the filled-in figure corresponding to the
wooden piece, and has placed the piece carefully
and precisely upon it, another child takes away
the piece in order to place it on the same form in
outline. The game is somewhat suggestive of

Many children, without any suggestion from
any one, touch with the finger the outline of the
figures in the three series of cards, doing it with
seriousness of purpose, interest and perseverance.

We teach the children to name all the forms
of the plane insets.

At first I had intended to limit my teaching to
the most important names, such as square, rectangle,
circle. But the children wanted to know
all the names, taking pleasure in learning even
the most difficult, such as trapezium, and decagon.
They also show great pleasure in listening to the
exact pronunciation of new words and in their
repetition. Early childhood is, in fact, the age
in which language is formed, and in which the
sounds of a foreign language can be perfectly

When the child has had long practise with the
plane insets, he begins to make “discoveries” in
his environment, recognizing forms, colors, and
qualities already known to him––a result which,
in general, follows after all the sensory exercises.
Then it is that a great enthusiasm is aroused in
him, and the world becomes for him a source of
pleasure. A little boy, walking one day alone
on the roof terrace, repeated to himself with a
thoughtful expression on his face, “The sky is
blue! the sky is blue!” Once a cardinal, an admirer
of the children of the school in Via Guisti,
wished himself to bring them some biscuits and
to enjoy the sight of a little greediness among
the children. When he had finished his distribution,
instead of seeing the children put the food
hastily into their mouths, to his great surprise he
heard them call out, “A triangle! a circle! a rectangle!”
In fact, these biscuits were made in
geometrical shapes.

In one of the people’s dwellings at Milan, a
mother, preparing the dinner in the kitchen, took
from a packet a slice of bread and butter. Her
little four-year-old boy who was with her said,
“Rectangle.” The woman going on with her
work cut off a large corner of the slice of bread,
and the child cried out, “Triangle.” She put this
bit into the saucepan, and the child, looking at
the piece that was left, called out more loudly
than before, “And now it is a trapezium.”

The father, a working man, who was present,
was much impressed with the incident. He went
straight to look for the teacher and asked for an
explanation. Much moved, he said, “If I had been
educated in that way I should not be now just
an ordinary workman.”

It was he who later on arranged for a demonstration
to induce all the workmen of the dwellings
to take an interest in the school. They
ended by presenting the teacher with a parchment
they had painted themselves, and on it, between
the pictures of little children, they had introduced
every kind of geometrical form.


As regards the touching of objects for the realization
of their form, there is an infinite field of
discovery open to the child in his environment.
Children have been seen to stand opposite a beautiful
pillar or a statue and, after having admired
it, to close their eyes in a state of beatitude and
pass their hands many times over the forms. One
of our teachers met one day in a church two little
brothers from the school in Via Guisti. They
were standing looking at the small columns supporting
the altar. Little by little the elder boy
edged nearer the columns and began to touch
them, then, as if he desired his little brother to
share his pleasure, he drew him nearer and, taking
his hand very gently, made him pass it round
the smooth and beautiful shape of the column.
But a sacristan came up at that moment and sent
away “those tiresome children who were touching

The great pleasure which the children derive
from the recognition of objects by touching their
form corresponds in itself to a sensory exercise.

Many psychologists have spoken of the stereognostic
sense, that is, the capacity of recognizing
forms by the movement of the muscles of the
hand as it follows the outlines of solid objects.
This sense does not consist only of the sense of
touch, because the tactile sensation is only that
by which we perceive the differences in quality
of surfaces, rough or smooth. Perception of
form comes from the combination of two sensations,
tactile and muscular, muscular sensations
being sensations of movement. What we call in
the blind the tactile sense is in reality more often
the stereognostic sense. That is, they perceive
by means of their hands the form of bodies.

It is the special muscular sensibility of the
child from three to six years of age who is forming
his own muscular activity which stimulates
him to use the stereognostic sense. When the
child spontaneously blindfolds his eyes in order
to recognize various objects, such as the plane
and solid insets, he is exercising this sense.

There are many exercises which he can do
to enable him to recognize with closed eyes objects
of well defined shapes, as, for example, the
little bricks and cubes of Froebel, marbles, coins,
beans, peas, etc. From a selection of different
objects mixed together he can pick out those
that are alike, and arrange them in separate

In the didactic material there are also geometrical
solids––pale blue in color––a sphere, a prism,
a pyramid, a cone, a cylinder. The most attractive
way of teaching a child to recognize these
forms is for him to touch them with closed eyes and
guess their names, the latter learned in a way which
I will describe later. After an exercise of this
kind the child when his eyes are open observes the
forms with a much more lively interest. Another
way of interesting him in the solid geometrical
forms is to make them move. The sphere rolls in
every direction; the cylinder rolls in one direction
only; the cone rolls round itself; the prism
and the pyramid, however, stand still, but the
prism falls over more easily than the pyramid.

Fig. 26.––Sound Boxes.

Little more remains of the didactic material
for the education of the senses. There is, however,
a series of six cardboard cylinders, either
closed entirely or with wooden covers. (Fig. 26.)

When these cases are shaken they produce
sounds varying in intensity from loud to almost
imperceptible sounds, according to the nature of
the objects inside the cylinder.

There is a double act of these, and the exercise
consists, first, in the recognition of sounds
of equal intensity, arranging the cylinders in
pairs. The next exercise consists in the comparison
of one sound with another; that is, the child
arranges the six cylinders in a series according
to the loudness of sound which they produce.
The exercise is analogous to that with the
color spools, which also are paired and then arranged
in gradation. In this case also the child
performs the exercise seated comfortably at a
table. After a preliminary explanation from the
teacher he repeats the exercise by himself, his
eyes being blindfolded that he may better concentrate
his attention.

We may conclude with a general rule for the
direction of the education of the senses. The
order of procedure should be:

(1) Recognition of identities (the pairing of
similar objects and the insertion of solid forms
into places which fit them).

(2) Recognition of contrasts (the presentation
of the extremes of a series of objects).


(3) Discrimination between objects very similar
to one another.

To concentrate the attention of the child upon
the sensory stimulus which is acting upon him at
a particular moment, it is well, as far as possible,
to isolate the sense; for instance, to obtain silence
in the room for all the exercises and to blindfold
the eyes for those particular exercises which do
not relate to the education of the sense of sight.

The cinematograph pictures give a general idea
of all the sense exercises which the children can
do with the material, and any one who has been
initiated into the theory on which these are based
will be able gradually to recognize them as they
are seen practically carried out.

It is very advisable for those who wish to guide
the children in these sensory exercises to begin
themselves by working with the didactic material.
The experience will give them some idea of what
the children must feel, of the difficulties which they
must overcome, etc., and, up to a certain point, it
will give them some conception of the interest
which these exercises can arouse in them. Whoever
makes such experiments himself will be most
struck by the fact that, when blindfolded, he finds
that all the sensations of touch and hearing really
appear more acute and more easily recognized.
On account of this alone no small interest will be
aroused in the experimenter.

For the beginning of the education of the musical
sense, we use in Rome a material which does
not form part of the didactic apparatus as it is
sold at present. It consists of a double series of
bells forming an octave with tones and semitones.
These metal bells, which stand upon a
wooden rectangular base, are all alike in appearance,
but, when struck with a little wooden hammer,
give out sounds corresponding to the notes
doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh, doh ♯, re ♯, fah ♯,
soh ♯, lah ♯.

Fig. 27.––Musical Bells.

One series of bells is arranged in chromatic
order upon a long board, upon which are painted
rectangular spaces which are black and white
and of the same size as the bases which support
the bells. As on a pianoforte keyboard, the white
spaces correspond to the tones, and the black to
the semitones. (Fig. 27.)


At first the only bells to be arranged upon the
board are those which correspond to the tones;
these are set upon the white spaces in the order of
the musical notes, doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh.

To perform the first exercise the child strikes
with a small hammer the first note of the series
already arranged (doh). Then among a second
series of corresponding bells which, arranged
without the semitones, are mixed together upon
the table, he tries, by striking the bells one after
the other, to find the sound which is the same as the
first one he has struck (doh). When he has succeeded
in finding the corresponding sound, he puts
the bell thus chosen opposite the first one (doh)
upon the board. Then he strikes the second bell,
re, once or twice; then from among the mixed
group of bells he makes experiments until he recognizes
re, which he places opposite the second
bell of the series already arranged. He continues
in the same way right to the end, looking for the
identity of the sounds and performing an exercise
of pairing similar to that already done in the
case of the sound-boxes, the colors, etc.

Later, he learns in order the sounds of the musical
scale, striking in rapid succession the bells arranged
in order, and also accompanying his action
with his voice––doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh.
When he is able to recognize and remember
the series of sounds, the child takes the eight
bells and, after mixing them up, he tries by striking
them with the hammer, to find doh, then re,
etc. Every time that he takes a new note, he
strikes from the beginning all the bells already
recognized and arranged in order––doh, re, doh,
re, mi; doh, re, mi, fah; doh, re, mi, fah, soh,
etc. In this way he succeeds in arranging all the
bells in the order of the scale, guided only by his
ear, and having succeeded, he strikes all the notes
one after the other up and down the scale. This
exercise fascinates children from five years old

If the objects which have been described constitute
the didactic material for the beginnings
of a methodical education of the auditory sense,
I have no desire to limit to them an educational
process which is so important and already so
complex in its practise, whether in the long
established methods of treatment for the deaf, or
in modern physiological musical education. In
fact, I also use resonant metal tubes, small bars of
wood which emit musical notes, and strings (little
harps), upon which the children seek to recognize
the tones they have already learned with the
exercise of the bells. The pianoforte may also
be used for the same purpose. In this way the
difference in timbre comes to be perceived together
with the differences in tone. At the same time
various exercises, already mentioned, such as the
marches played on the piano for rhythmic exercises,
and the simple songs sung by the children
themselves, offer extensive means for the development
of the musical sense.

To quicken the child’s attention in special relation
to sounds there is a most important exercise
which, contrary to all attempts made up to this
time in the practise of education, consists not in
producing but in eliminating, as far as possible,
all sounds from the environment. My “lesson of
silence” has been very widely applied, even in
schools where the rest of my method has not
found its way, for the sake of its practical effect
upon the discipline of the children.

The children are taught “not to move”; to inhibit
all those motor impulses which may arise
from any cause whatsoever, and in order to induce
in them real “immobility,” it is necessary
to initiate them in the control of all their movements.
The teacher, then, does not limit herself
to saying, “Sit still,” but she gives them the example
herself, showing them how to sit absolutely
still; that is, with feet still, body still, arms still,
head still. The respiratory movements should also
be performed in such a way as to produce no sound.

The children must be taught how to succeed
in this exercise. The fundamental condition is
that of finding a comfortable position, i.e., a
position of equilibrium. As they are seated for
this exercise, they must therefore make themselves
comfortable either in their little chairs or on the
ground. When immobility is obtained, the room
is half-darkened, or else the children close their
eyes, or cover them with their hands.

It is quite plain to see that the children take
a great interest in the “Silence”; they seem to
give themselves up to a kind of spell: they might
be said to be wrapped in meditation. Little by
little, as each child, watching himself, becomes
more and more still, the silence deepens till it
becomes absolute and can be felt, just as the twilight
gradually deepens whilst the sun is setting.

Then it is that slight sounds, unnoticed before,
are heard; the ticking of the clock, the chirp of
a sparrow in the garden, the flight of a butterfly.
The world becomes full of imperceptible sounds
which invade that deep silence without disturbing
it, just as the stars shine out in the dark sky
without banishing the darkness of the night. It
is almost the discovery of a new world where
there is rest. It is, as it were, the twilight of the
world of loud noises and of the uproar that oppresses
the spirit. At such a time the spirit is
set free and opens out like the corolla of the convolvulus.

And leaving metaphor for the reality of facts,
can we not all recall feelings that have possessed
us at sunset, when all the vivid impressions of the
day, the brightness and clamor, are silenced? It
is not that we miss the day, but that our spirit
expands. It becomes more sensitive to the inner
play of emotions, strong and persistent, or changeful
and serene.

“It was that hour when mariners feel longing,
 And hearts grow tender.”

(Dante, trans. Longfellow.)


The lesson of silence ends with a general calling
of the children’s names. The teacher, or one of
the children, takes her place behind the class or
in an adjoining room, and “calls” the motionless
children, one by one, by name; the call is
made in a whisper, that is, without vocal sound.
This demands a close attention on the part of the
child, if he is to hear his name. When his name
is called he must rise and find his way to the voice
which called him; his movements must be light
and vigilant, and so controlled as to make no

When the children have become acquainted with
silence, their hearing is in a manner refined for
the perception of sounds. Those sounds which
are too loud become gradually displeasing to the
ear of one who has known the pleasure of silence,
and has discovered the world of delicate sounds.
From this point the children gradually go on to
perfect themselves; they walk lightly, take care
not to knock against the furniture, move their
chairs without noise, and place things upon the
table with great care. The result of this is seen
in the grace of carriage and of movement, which
is especially delightful on account of the way in
which it has been brought about. It is not a grace
taught externally for the sake of beauty or regard
for the world, but one which is born of
the pleasure felt by the spirit in immobility and
silence. The soul of the child wishes to free itself
from the irksomeness of sounds that are too loud,
from obstacles to its peace during work. These
children, with the grace of pages to a noble lord,
are serving their spirits.

This exercise develops very definitely the social
spirit. No other lesson, no other “situation,”
could do the same. A profound silence can be
obtained even when more than fifty children are
crowded together in a small space, provided that
all the children know how to keep still and want
to do it; but one disturber is enough to take
away the charm.

Here is demonstration of the cooperation of all
the members of a community to achieve a common
end. The children gradually show increased
power of inhibition; many of them, rather than
disturb the silence, refrain from brushing a fly
off the nose, or suppress a cough or sneeze. The
same exhibition of collective action is seen in the
care with which the children move to avoid making
a noise during their work. The lightness with
which they run on tiptoe, the grace with which
they shut a cupboard, or lay an object on the
table, these are qualities that must be acquired
by all
, if the environment is to become tranquil
and free from disturbance. One rebel is sufficient
to mar this achievement; one noisy child,
walking on his heels or banging the door, can
disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the small community.


The special importance of the sense of hearing
comes from the fact that it is the sense organ
connected with speech. Therefore, to train the
child’s attention to follow sounds and noises
which are produced in the environment, to recognize
them and to discriminate between them, is to
prepare his attention to follow more accurately
the sounds of articulate language. The teacher
must be careful to pronounce clearly and completely
the sounds of the word when she speaks to
a child, even though she may be speaking in a low
voice, almost as if telling him a secret. The children’s
songs are also a good means for obtaining
exact pronunciation. The teacher, when she
teaches them, pronounces slowly, separating the
component sounds of the word pronounced.

But a special opportunity for training in clear
and exact speech occurs when the lessons are
given in the nomenclature relating to the sensory
exercises. In every exercise, when the child has
recognized the differences between the qualities
of the objects, the teacher fixes the idea of this
quality with a word. Thus, when the child has
many times built and rebuilt the tower of the
pink cubes, at an opportune moment the teacher
draws near him, and taking the two extreme cubes,
the largest and the smallest, and showing them
to him, says, “This is large”; “This is small.”
The two words only, large and small, are pronounced
several times in succession with strong
emphasis and with a very clear pronunciation,
“This is large, large, large”; after which there
is a moment’s pause. Then the teacher, to see
if the child has understood, verifies with the following
tests: “Give me the large one. Give
me the small one.” Again, “The large one.”
“Now the small one.” “Give me the large one.”
Then there is another pause. Finally, the
teacher, pointing to the objects in turn asks,
“What is this?” The child, if he has learned,
replies rightly, “Large,” “Small.” The teacher
then urges the child to repeat the words always
more clearly and as accurately as possible.
“What is it?” “Large.” “What?” “Large.”
“Tell me nicely, what is it?” “Large.”

Large and small objects are those which differ
only in size and not in form; that is, all three
dimensions change more or less proportionally.
We should say that a house is “large” and a hut
is “small.” When two pictures represent the
same objects in different dimensions one can be
said to be an enlargement of the other.

When, however, only the dimensions referring
to the section of the object change, while the
length remains the same, the objects are respectively
“thick” and “thin.” We should say of
two posts of equal height, but different cross-section,
that one is “thick” and the other is
“thin.” The teacher, therefore, gives a lesson
on the brown prisms similar to that with the cubes
in the three “periods” which I have described:


Period 1. Naming. “This is thick. This is

Period 2. Recognition. “Give me the thick.
Give me the thin.”

Period 3. The Pronunciation of the Word.
“What is this?”

There is a way of helping the child to recognize
differences in dimension and to place the objects
in correct gradation. After the lesson which I
have described, the teacher scatters the brown
prisms, for instance, on a carpet, says to the child,
“Give me the thickest of all,” and lays the object
on a table. Then, again, she invites the child
to look for the thickest piece among those scattered
on the floor, and every time the piece chosen
is laid in its order on the table next to the piece
previously chosen. In this way the child accustoms
himself always to look either for the thickest
or the thinnest among the rest, and so has a guide
to help him to lay the pieces in gradation.

When there is one dimension only which varies,
as in the case of the rods, the objects are said to
be “long” and “short,” the varying dimension
being length. When the varying dimension is
height, the objects are said to be “tall” and
“short”; when the breadth varies, they are
“broad” and “narrow.”

Of these three varieties we offer the child as a
fundamental lesson only that in which the length
varies, and we teach the differences by means of
the usual “three periods,” and by asking him to
select from the pile at one time always the “longest,”
at another always the “shortest.”

The child in this way acquires great accuracy
in the use of words. One day the teacher had
ruled the blackboard with very fine lines. A child
said, “What small lines!” “They are not small,”
corrected another; “they are thin.”

When the names to be taught are those of colors
or of forms, so that it is not necessary to
emphasize contrast between extremes, the teacher
can give more than two names at the same time,
as, for instance, “This is red.” “This is blue.”
“This is yellow.” Or, again, “This is a square.”
“This is a triangle.” “This is a circle.” In
the case of a gradation, however, the teacher will
select (if she is teaching the colors) the two extremes
“dark” and “light,” then making choice
always of the “darkest” and the “lightest.”

Many of the lessons here described can be seen
in the cinematograph pictures; lessons on touching
the plane insets and the surfaces, in walking
on the line, in color memory, in the nomenclature
relating to the cubes and the long rods, in the
composition of words, reading, writing, etc.

By means of these lessons the child comes to
know many words very thoroughly––large, small;
thick, thin; long, short; dark, light; rough, smooth;
heavy, light; hot, cold; and the names of many
colors and geometrical forms. Such words do not
relate to any particular object, but to a psychic
acquisition on the part of the child. In fact, the
name is given after a long exercise, in which the
child, concentrating his attention on different
qualities of objects, has made comparisons, reasoned,
and formed judgments, until he has acquired
a power of discrimination which he did
not possess before. In a word, he has refined his
; his observation of things has been thorough
and fundamental; he has changed himself.

He finds himself, therefore, facing the world
with psychic qualities refined and quickened.
His powers of observation and of recognition have
greatly increased. Further, the mental images
which he has succeeded in establishing are not a
confused medley; they are all classified––forms
are distinct from dimensions, and dimensions are
classed according to the qualities which result
from the combinations of varying dimensions.

All these are quite distinct from gradations.
Colors are divided according to tint and to richness
of tone, silence is distinct from non-silence,
noises from sounds, and everything has its own
exact and appropriate name. The child then has
not only developed in himself special qualities of
observation and of judgment, but the objects
which he observes may be said to go into their
place, according to the order established in his
mind, and they are placed under their appropriate
name in an exact classification.

Does not the student of the experimental sciences
prepare himself in the same way to observe
the outside world? He may find himself like the
uneducated man in the midst of the most diverse
natural objects, but he differs from the uneducated
man in that he has special qualities for observation.
If he is a worker with the microscope, his
eyes are trained to see in the range of the microscope
certain minute details which the ordinary
man cannot distinguish. If he is an astronomer,
he will look through the same telescope as the
curious visitor or dilettante, but he will see much
more clearly. The same plants surround the
botanist and the ordinary wayfarer, but the botanist
sees in every plant those qualities which are
classified in his mind, and assigns to each plant its
own place in the natural orders, giving it its exact
name. It is this capacity for recognizing a plant
in a complex order of classification which distinguishes
the botanist from the ordinary gardener,
and it is exact and scientific language which characterizes
the trained observer.

Now, the scientist who has developed special
qualities of observation and who “possesses” an
order in which to classify external objects will
be the man to make scientific discoveries. It will
never be he who, without preparation and order,
wanders dreaming among plants or beneath the
starlit sky.

In fact, our little ones have the impression of
continually “making discoveries” in the world
about them; and in this they find the greatest
joy. They take from the world a knowledge which
is ordered and inspires them with enthusiasm.
Into their minds there enters “the Creation” instead
of “the Chaos”; and it seems that their souls
find therein a divine exultation.


The success of these results is closely connected
with the delicate intervention of the one who
guides the children in their development. It is
necessary for the teacher to guide the child without
letting him feel her presence too much, so that
she may be always ready to supply the desired
help, but may never be the obstacle between the
child and his experience.

A lesson in the ordinary use of the word cools
the child’s enthusiasm for the knowledge of
things, just as it would cool the enthusiasm of
adults. To keep alive that enthusiasm is the secret
of real guidance, and it will not prove a difficult
task, provided that the attitude towards the
child’s acts be that of respect, calm and waiting,
and provided that he be left free in his movements
and in his experiences.

Then we shall notice that the child has a personality
which he is seeking to expand; he has
initiative, he chooses his own work, persists in it,
changes it according to his inner needs; he does
not shirk effort, he rather goes in search of it,
and with great joy overcomes obstacles within his
capacity. He is sociable to the extent of wanting
to share with every one his successes, his discoveries,
and his little triumphs. There is therefore
no need of intervention. “Wait while observing.”
That is the motto for the educator.

Let us wait, and be always ready to share in
both the joys and the difficulties which the child
experiences. He himself invites our sympathy,
and we should respond fully and gladly. Let us
have endless patience with his slow progress, and
show enthusiasm and gladness at his successes.
If we could say: “We are respectful and courteous
in our dealings with children, we treat them
as we should like to be treated ourselves,” we
should certainly have mastered a great educational
principle and undoubtedly be setting an
example of good education.

What we all desire for ourselves, namely, not
to be disturbed in our work, not to find hindrances
to our efforts, to have good friends ready to help
us in times of need, to see them rejoice with us,
to be on terms of equality with them, to be able
to confide and trust in them––this is what we need
for happy companionship. In the same way children
are human beings to whom respect is due,
superior to us by reason of their “innocence”
and of the greater possibilities of their future.
What we desire they desire also.

As a rule, however, we do not respect our children.
We try to force them to follow us without
regard to their special needs. We are overbearing
with them, and above all, rude; and then we
expect them to be submissive and well-behaved,
knowing all the time how strong is their instinct
of imitation and how touching their faith in and
admiration of us. They will imitate us in any
case. Let us treat them, therefore, with all the
kindness which we would wish to help to develop
in them. And by kindness is not meant caresses.
Should we not call anyone who embraced us at the
first time of meeting rude, vulgar and ill-bred?
Kindness consists in interpreting the wishes of
others, in conforming one’s self to them, and sacrificing,
if need be, one’s own desire. This is the
kindness which we must show towards children.

To find the interpretation of children’s desires
we must study them scientifically, for their desires
are often unconscious. They are the inner
cry of life, which wishes to unfold according to
mysterious laws. We know very little of the way
in which it unfolds. Certainly the child is growing
into a man by force of a divine action similar
to that by which from nothing he became a child.

Our intervention in this marvelous process is
indirect; we are here to offer to this life, which
came into the world by itself, the means necessary
for its development, and having done that we must
await this development with respect.

Let us leave the life free to develop within the
limits of the good, and let us observe this inner
life developing. This is the whole of our mission.
Perhaps as we watch we shall be reminded of the
words of Him who was absolutely good, “Suffer
the little children to come unto Me.” That is to
say, “Do not hinder them from coming, since, if
they are left free and unhampered, they will


The child who has completed all the exercises
above described, and is thus prepared for an advance
towards unexpected conquests, is about four
years old.


He is not an unknown quantity, as are children
who have been left to gain varied and casual experiences
by themselves, and who therefore differ
in type and intellectual standard, not only according
to their “natures,” but especially according
to the chances and opportunities they have found
for their spontaneous inner formation.

Education has determined an environment for
the children. Individual differences to be found
in them can, therefore, be put down almost exclusively
to each one’s individual “nature.” Owing
to their environment which offers means
adapted and measured to meet the needs of their
psychical development, our children have acquired
a fundamental type which is common to
all. They have coordinated their movements in
various kinds of manual work about the house,
and so have acquired a characteristic independence
of action, and initiative in the adaptation of
their actions to their environment. Out of all this
emerges a personality, for the children have become
little men, who are self-reliant.

The special attention necessary to handle small
fragile objects without breaking them, and to
move heavy articles without making a noise, has
endowed the movements of the whole body with
a lightness and grace which are characteristic of
our children. It is a deep feeling of responsibility
which has brought them to such a pitch of perfection.
For instance, when they carry three or
four tumblers at a time, or a tureen of hot soup,
they know that they are responsible not only for
the objects, but also for the success of the meal
which at that moment they are directing. In the
same way each child feels the responsibility of
the “silence,” of the prevention of harsh sounds,
and he knows how to cooperate for the general
good in keeping the environment, not only orderly,
but quiet and calm. Indeed, our children have
taken the road which leads them to mastery of

But their formation is due to a deeper psychological
work still, arising from the education of
the senses. In addition to ordering their environment
and ordering themselves in their outward
personalities, they have also ordered the inner
world of their minds.

The didactic material, in fact, does not offer to
the child the “content” of the mind, but the
order for that “content.” It causes him to distinguish
identities from differences, extreme differences
from fine gradations, and to classify,
under conceptions of quality and of quantity, the
most varying sensations appertaining to surfaces,
colors, dimensions, forms and sounds. The mind
has formed itself by a special exercise of attention,
observing, comparing, and classifying.

The mental attitude acquired by such an exercise
leads the child to make ordered observations
in his environment, observations which prove
as interesting to him as discoveries, and so
stimulate him to multiply them indefinitely and
to form in his mind a rich “content” of clear

Language now comes to fix by means of exact
the ideas which the mind has acquired.
These words are few in number and have reference,
not to separate objects, but rather to the
order of the ideas which have been formed in the
mind. In this way the children are able to “find
themselves,” alike in the world of natural things
and in the world of objects and of words which
surround them, for they have an inner guide which
leads them to become active and intelligent explorers
instead of wandering wayfarers in an unknown

These are the children who, in a short space of
time, sometimes in a few days, learn to write and
to perform the first operations of arithmetic. It
is not a fact that children in general can do it, as
many have believed. It is not a case of giving
my material for writing to unprepared children
and of awaiting the “miracle.”

The fact is that the minds and hands of our
children are already prepared for writing, and
ideas of quantity, of identity, of differences, and
of gradation, which form the bases of all calculation,
have been maturing for a long time in them.

One might say that all their previous education
is a preparation for the first stages of essential
culture––writing, reading, and number, and that
knowledge comes as an easy, spontaneous, and
logical consequence of the preparation––that it is
in fact its natural conclusion.

We have already seen that the purpose of the
word is to fix ideas and to facilitate the elementary
comprehension of things. In the same way writing
and arithmetic now fix the complex inner acquisitions
of the mind, which proceeds henceforward
continually to enrich itself by fresh observations.

Our children have long been preparing the hand
for writing. Throughout all the sensory exercises
the hand, whilst cooperating with the mind in
its attainments and in its work of formation, was
preparing its own future. When the hand learned
to hold itself lightly suspended over a horizontal
surface in order to touch rough and smooth, when
it took the cylinders of the solid insets and placed
them in their apertures, when with two fingers it
touched the outlines of the geometrical forms, it
was coordinating movements, and the child is now
ready––almost impatient to use them in the fascinating
“synthesis” of writing.

The direct preparation for writing also consists
in exercises of the movements of the hand.
There are two series of exercises, very different
from one another. I have analyzed the movements
which are connected with writing, and
I prepare them separately one from the other.
When we write, we perform a movement for the
management of the instrument of writing, a movement
which generally acquires an individual character,
so that a person’s handwriting can be recognized,
and, in certain medical cases, changes in
the nervous system can be traced by the corresponding
alterations in the handwriting. In fact,
it is from the handwriting that specialists in that
subject would interpret the moral character of

Writing has, besides this, a general character,
which has reference to the form of the alphabetical

When a man writes he combines these two parts,
but they actually exist as the component parts of
a single product
and can be prepared apart.

Exercises for the Management of the
Instrument of Writing

(The Individual Part)

In the didactic material there are two sloping
wooden boards, on each of which stand five square
metal frames, colored pink. In each of these is
inserted a blue geometrical figure similar to the
geometrical insets and provided with a small button
for a handle. With this material we use a
box of ten colored pencils and a little book of
designs which I have prepared after five years’
experience of observing the children. I have
chosen and graduated the designs according to
the use which the children made of them.

The two sloping boards are set side by side, and
on them are placed ten complete “insets,” that is
to say, the frames with the geometrical figures.
(Fig. 28.) The child is given a sheet of white
paper and the box of ten colored pencils. He will
then choose one of the ten metal insets, which
are arranged in an attractive line at a certain distance
from him. The child is taught the following

Fig. 28.––Sloping Boards to Display Set of Metal Insets.

He lays the frame of the iron inset on the sheet
of paper, and, holding it down firmly with one
hand, he follows with a colored pencil the interior
outline which describes a geometrical figure.
Then he lifts the square frame, and finds drawn
upon the paper an enclosed geometrical form, a
triangle, a circle, a hexagon, etc. The child has
not actually performed a new exercise, because he
had already performed all these movements when
he touched the wooden plane insets. The only
new feature of the exercise is that he follows the
outlines no longer directly with his finger, but
through the medium of a pencil. That is, he
draws, he leaves a trace of his movement.

The child finds this exercise easy and most interesting,
and, as soon as he has succeeded in
making the first outline, he places above it the
piece of blue metal corresponding to it. This is an
exercise exactly similar to that which he performed
when he placed the wooden geometrical
figures upon the cards of the third series, where
the figures are only contained by a simple line.

This time, however, when the action of placing
the form upon the outline is performed, the child
takes another colored pencil and draws the outline
of the blue metal figure.

When he raises it, if the drawing is well done,
he finds upon the paper a geometrical figure contained
by two outlines in colors, and, if the colors
have been well chosen, the result is very attractive,
and the child, who has already had a considerable
education of the chromatic sense is
keenly interested in it.

These may seem unnecessary details, but, as a
matter of fact, they are all-important. For instance,
if, instead of arranging the ten metal
insets in a row, the teacher distributes them
among the children without thus exhibiting them,
the child’s exercises are much limited. When, on
the other hand, the insets are exhibited before his
eyes, he feels the desire to draw them all one
after the other, and the number of exercises is increased.

The two colored outlines rouse the desire of the
child to see another combination of colors and
then to repeat the experience. The variety of the
objects and the colors are therefore an inducement
to work and hence to final success.

Here the actual preparatory movement for
writing begins. When the child has drawn the
figure in double outline, he takes hold of a pencil
“like a pen for writing,” and draws marks up
and down until he has completely filled the figure.
In this way a definite filled-in figure remains on
the paper, similar to the figures on the cards of
the first series. This figure can be in any of the
ten colors. At first the children fill in the figures
very clumsily without regard for the outlines,
making very heavy lines and not keeping them
parallel. Little by little, however, the drawings
improve, in that they keep within the outlines,
and the lines increase in number, grow finer, and
are parallel to one another.

When the child has begun these exercises, he is
seized with a desire to continue them, and he never
tires of drawing the outlines of the figures and
then filling them in. Each child suddenly becomes
the possessor of a considerable number of
drawings, and he treasures them up in his own
little drawer. In this way he organizes the movement
of writing, which brings him to the management
of the pen
. This movement in ordinary
methods is represented by the wearisome pothook
connected with the first laborious and tedious attempts
at writing.

The organization of this movement, which began
from the guidance of a piece of metal, is as
yet rough and imperfect, and the child now passes
on to the filling in of the prepared designs in the
little album. The leaves are taken from the book
one by one in the order of progression in which
they are arranged, and the child fills in the prepared
designs with colored pencils in the same
way as before. Here the choice of the colors is
another intelligent occupation which encourages
the child to multiply the tasks. He chooses the
colors by himself and with much taste. The delicacy
of the shades which he chooses and the harmony
with which he arranges them in these designs
show us that the common belief, that children
love bright and glaring colors, has been the
result of observation of children without education,
who have been abandoned to the rough and
harsh experiences of an environment unfitted for

The education of the chromatic sense becomes
at this point of a child’s development the lever
which enables him to become possessed of a firm,
bold and beautiful handwriting.

The drawings lend themselves to limiting, in
very many ways, the length of the strokes with
which they are filled in
. The child will have to
fill in geometrical figures, both large and small, of
a pavement design, or flowers and leaves, or the
various details of an animal or of a landscape.
In this way the hand accustoms itself, not only to
perform the general action, but also to confine the
movement within all kinds of limits.

Hence the child is preparing himself to write
in a handwriting either large or small. Indeed,
later on he will write as well between the wide
lines on a blackboard as between the narrow,
closely ruled lines of an exercise book, generally
used by much older children.

The number of exercises which the child performs
with the drawings is practically unlimited.
He will often take another colored pencil and
draw over again the outlines of the figure already
filled in with color. A help to the continuation of
the exercise is to be found in the further education
of the chromatic sense, which the child acquires
by painting the same designs in water-colors.
Later he mixes colors for himself until he
can imitate the colors of nature, or create the
delicate tints which his own imagination desires.
It is not possible, however, to speak of all this in
detail within the limits of this small work.

Exercises for the Writing of Alphabetical Signs

Fig. 29.––Single Sandpaper Letter.

Fig. 30.––Groups of Sandpaper Letters.

In the didactic material there are series of boxes
which contain the alphabetical signs. At this
point we take those cards which are covered with
very smooth paper, to which is gummed a letter
of the alphabet cut out in sandpaper. (Fig. 29.)
There are also large cards on which are gummed
several letters, grouped together according to
analogy of form. (Fig. 30.)

The children “have to touch over the alphabetical
signs as though they were writing.” They
touch them with the tips of the index and middle
fingers in the same way as when they touched the
wooden insets, and with the hand raised as when
they lightly touched the rough and smooth surfaces.
The teacher herself touches the letters to
show the child how the movement should be performed,
and the child, if he has had much practise
in touching the wooden insets, imitates her with
ease and pleasure. Without the previous practise,
however, the child’s hand does not follow the letter
with accuracy, and it is most interesting to make
close observations of the children in order to understand
the importance of a remote motor preparation
for writing, and also to realize the immense
strain which we impose upon the children
when we set them to write directly without a previous
motor education of the hand.

The child finds great pleasure in touching the
sandpaper letters. It is an exercise by which he
applies to a new attainment the power he has already
acquired through exercising the sense of
touch. Whilst the child touches a letter, the
teacher pronounces its sound, and she uses for the
lesson the usual three periods. Thus, for example,
presenting the two vowels i, o, she will
have the child touch them slowly and accurately,
and repeat their relative sounds one after the
other as the child touches them, “i, i, i! o, o, o!”
Then she will say to the child: “Give me i!”
“Give me o!” Finally, she will ask the question:
“What is this?” To which the child replies,
“i, o.” She proceeds in the same way through
all the other letters, giving, in the case of the
consonants, not the name, but only the sound.
The child then touches the letters by himself
over and over again, either on the separate cards
or on the large cards on which several letters
are gummed, and in this way he establishes the
movements necessary for tracing the alphabetical
signs. At the same time he retains the
visual image of the letter. This process forms
the first preparation, not only for writing, but also
for reading, because it is evident that when the
child touches the letters he performs the movement
corresponding to the writing of them, and,
at the same time, when he recognizes them by
sight he is reading the alphabet.

The child has thus prepared, in effect, all the
necessary movements for writing; therefore he
can write. This important conquest is the result
of a long period of inner formation of which the
child is not clearly aware. But a day will come––very
soon––when he will write, and that will be
a day of great surprise for him––the wonderful
harvest of an unknown sowing.

Fig. 31.––Box of Movable Letters.

The alphabet of movable letters cut out in pink
and blue cardboard, and kept in a special box
with compartments, serves “for the composition
of words.” (Fig. 31.)

In a phonetic language, like Italian, it is enough
to pronounce clearly the different component
sounds of a word (as, for example, m-a-n-o), so
that the child whose ear is already educated may
recognize one by one the component sounds.
Then he looks in the movable alphabet for the
signs corresponding to each separate sound, and
lays them one beside the other, thus composing
the word (for instance, mano). Gradually he will
become able to do the same thing with words of
which he thinks himself; he succeeds in breaking
them up into their component sounds, and in
translating them into a row of signs.

When the child has composed the words in this
way, he knows how to read them. In this method,
therefore, all the processes leading to writing include
reading as well.

If the language is not phonetic, the teacher can
compose separate words with the movable alphabet,
and then pronounce them, letting the child repeat
by himself the exercise of arranging and rereading

In the material there are two movable alphabets.
One of them consists of larger letters, and
is divided into two boxes, each of which contains
the vowels. This is used for the first exercises,
in which the child needs very large objects in order
to recognize the letters. When he is acquainted
with one half of the consonants he can begin to
compose words, even though he is dealing with one
part only of the alphabet.

The other movable alphabet has smaller letters
and is contained in a single box. It is given to
children who have made their first attempts at
composition with words, and already know the
complete alphabet.

It is after these exercises with the movable alphabet
that the child is able to write entire words.
This phenomenon generally occurs unexpectedly,
and then a child who has never yet traced a
stroke or a letter on paper writes several
words in succession
. From that moment he
continues to write, always gradually perfecting
himself. This spontaneous writing takes
on the characteristics of a natural phenomenon,
and the child who has begun to write the “first
word” will continue to write in the same way as
he spoke after pronouncing the first word, and
as he walked after having taken the first step.
The same course of inner formation through
which the phenomenon of writing appeared is the
course of his future progress, of his growth to
perfection. The child prepared in this way has
entered upon a course of development through
which he will pass as surely as the growth of the
body and the development of the natural functions
have passed through their course of development
when life has once been established.

For the interesting and very complex phenomena
relating to the development of writing and
then of reading, see my larger works.


Fig. 32.––The Musical Staff.[A]

When the child knows how to read, he can make
a first application of this knowledge to the reading
of the names of musical notes.

In connection with the material for sensory
education, consisting of the series of bells, we use
a didactic material, which serves as an introduction
to musical reading. For this purpose we
have, in the first place, a wooden board, not very
long, and painted pale green. On this board the
staff is cut out in black, and in every line and
space are cut round holes, inside each of which is
written the name of the note in its reference to
the treble clef.

There is also a series of little white discs which
can be fitted into the holes. On one side of each
disc is written the name of the note (doh, re, mi,
fah, soh, lah, ti, doh).

The child, guided by the name written on the
discs, puts them, with the name uppermost, in
their right places on the board and then reads the
names of the notes. This exercise he can do by
himself, and he learns the position of each note on
the staff. Another exercise which the child can
do at the same time is to place the disc bearing the
name of the note on the rectangular base of the
corresponding bell, whose sound he has already
learned to recognize by ear in the sensorial exercise
described above.

Fig. 39.––Dumb Keyboard.

Following this exercise there is another staff
made on a board of green wood, which is longer
than the other and has neither indentures nor
signs. A considerable number of discs, on one
side of which are written the names of the notes, is
at the disposal of the child. He takes up a disc at
random, reads its name and places it on the staff,
with the name underneath, so that the white face
of the disc shows on the top. By the repetition
of this exercise the child is enabled to arrange
many discs on the same line or in the same space.
When he has finished, he turns them all over so
that the names are outside, and so finds out if he
has made mistakes. After learning the treble clef
the child passes on to learn the bass with great

To the staff described above can be added another
similar to it, arranged as is shown in the figure.
(Fig. 32.) The child beginning with doh,
lays the discs on the board in ascending order in
their right position until the octave is reached:
doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh. Then he descends
the scale in the same way, returning to
doh, but continuing to place the discs always to
the right: soh, fah, mi, re, doh. In this way he
forms an angle. At this point he descends again
to the lower staff, ti, lah, soh, fah, mi, re, doh,
then he ascends again on the other side: re, mi,
fah, soh, lah, ti, and by forming with his two lines
of discs another angle in the bass, he has completed
a rhombus, “the rhombus of the notes.”

After the discs have been arranged in this way,
the upper staff is separated from the lower. In
the lower the notes are arranged according to the
bass clef. In this way the first elements of musical
reading are presented to the child, reading
which corresponds to sounds with which the
child’s ear is already acquainted.

For a first practical application of this knowledge
we have used in our schools a miniature
pianoforte keyboard, which reproduces the essentials
of this instrument, although in a simplified
form, and so that they are visible. Two octaves
only are reproduced, and the keys, which are
small, are proportioned to the hand of a little
child of four or five years, as the keys of the
common piano are proportioned to those of the
adult. All the mechanism of the key is visible.
(Fig. 39.) On striking a key one sees the hammer
rise, on which is written the name of the note.
The hammers are black and white, like the notes.

With this instrument it is very easy for the
child to practise alone, finding the notes on the
keyboard corresponding to some bar of written
music, and following the movements of the fingers
made in playing the piano.

The keyboard in itself is mute, but a series of
resonant tubes, resembling a set of organ-pipes,
can be applied to the upper surface, so that the
hammers striking these produce musical notes corresponding
to the keys struck. The child can then
pursue his exercises with the control of the musical


Fig. 33.
On the wooden board, round spaces are cut out corresponding to the notes. Inside each of the spaces there is a figure. On one side of each of the discs is written a number and on the other the name of the note. They are fitted by the child into the corresponding places.

Fig. 34.
The child next arranged the discs in the notes cut out on the staff, but there are no longer numbers written to help him find the places. Instead, he must try to remember the place of the note on the staff. If he is not sure he consults the numbered board (Fig. 33).

Fig. 35.
The child arranged on the staff the semitones in the spaces which remain where the discs are far apart: do-re, re-mi, fah-soh, soh-la, la-ti. The discs for the semitones have the sharp on one side and the flat on the other, e.g., re♯-mi♭ are written on the opposite sides of the same disc.

Fig. 36.
The children take a large number of discs and arrange them on the staff, leaving uppermost the side which is blank, i.e., the side on which the name of the note is not written. Then they verify their work by turning the discs over and reading the name.

Fig. 37.
The double staff is formed by putting the two staves together. The children arrange the notes in the form of a rhombus.

Fig. 38.
The two boards are then separated and the notes remain arranged according to the treble and bass clefs. The corresponding key signatures are then placed upon the two different staves.


The children possess all the instinctive knowledge
necessary as a preparation for clear ideas on
numeration. The idea of quantity was inherent
in all the material for the education of the senses:
longer, shorter, darker, lighter. The conception
of identity and of difference formed part of the
actual technique of the education of the senses,
which began with the recognition of identical objects,
and continued with the arrangement in gradation
of similar objects. I will make a special
illustration of the first exercise with the solid insets,
which can be done even by a child of two and
a half. When he makes a mistake by putting a
cylinder in a hole too large for it, and so leaves
one cylinder without a place, he instinctively absorbs
the idea of the absence of one from a continuous
series. The child’s mind is not prepared
for number “by certain preliminary ideas,”
given in haste by the teacher, but has been prepared
for it by a process of formation, by a slow
building up of itself.

To enter directly upon the teaching of arithmetic,
we must turn to the same didactic material
used for the education of the senses.

Let us look at the three sets of material which
are presented after the exercises with the solid
insets, i.e., the material for teaching size (the
pink cubes), thickness (the brown prisms), and
length (the green rods). There is a definite relation
between the ten pieces of each series. In the
material for length the shortest piece is a unit of
for all the rest; the second piece is
double the first, the third is three times the first,
etc., and, whilst the scale of length increases by
ten centimeters for each piece, the other dimensions
remain constant (i.e., the rods all have the
same section).

The pieces then stand in the same relation to
one another as the natural series of the numbers
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

In the second series, namely, that which shows
thickness, whilst the length remains constant, the
square section of the prisms varies. The result
is that the sides of the square sections vary according
to the series of natural numbers, i.e., in
the first prism, the square of the section has sides
of one centimeter, in the second of two centimeters,
in the third of three centimeters, etc., and
so on until the tenth, in which the square of the
section has sides of ten centimeters. The prisms
therefore are in the same proportion to one another
as the numbers of the series of squares (1,
4, 9, etc.), for it would take four prisms of the
first size to make the second, nine to make the
third, etc. The pieces which make up the series
for teaching thickness are therefore in the following
proportion: 1 : 4 : 9 : 16 : 25 : 36 : 49 : 64 :
81 : 100.

In the case of the pink cubes the edge increases
according to the numerical series, i.e., the first
cube has an edge of one centimeter, the second
of two centimeters, the third of three centimeters,
and so on, to the tenth cube, which has an edge
of ten centimeters. Hence the relation in volume
between them is that of the cubes of the series
of numbers from one to ten, i.e., 1 : 8: 27 : 64:
125 : 216 : 343 : 512 : 729 : 1000. In fact, to make
up the volume of the second pink cube, eight of
the first little cubes would be required; to make up
the volume of the third, twenty-seven would be
required, and so on.

Fig. 40.––Diagram Illustrating Use of Numerical Rods.

The children have an intuitive knowledge of this
difference, for they realize that the exercise with
the pink cubes is the easiest of all three and that
with the rods the most difficult. When we begin
the direct teaching of number, we choose the long
rods, modifying them, however, by dividing them
into ten spaces, each ten centimeters in length,
colored alternately red and blue. For example,
the rod which is four times as long as the first is
clearly seen to be composed of four equal lengths,
red and blue; and similarly with all the rest.

When the rods have been placed in order of
gradation, we teach the child the numbers: one,
two, three, etc., by touching the rods in succession,
from the first up to ten. Then, to help him
to gain a clear idea of number, we proceed to the
recognition of separate rods by means of the customary
lesson in three periods.

We lay the three first rods in front of the child,
and pointing to them or taking them in the hand
in turn, in order to show them to him we say:
“This is one.” “This is two.” “This is three.”
We point out with the finger the divisions in each
rod, counting them so as to make sure, “One, two:
this is two.” “One, two, three: this is three.”
Then we say to the child: “Give me two.”
“Give me one.” “Give me three.” Finally,
pointing to a rod, we say, “What is this?” The
child answers, “Three,” and we count together:
“One, two, three.”

In the same way we teach all the other rods
in their order, adding always one or two more
according to the responsiveness of the child.


The importance of this didactic material is that
it gives a clear idea of number. For when a number
is named it exists as an object, a unity in itself.
When we say that a man possesses a million, we
mean that he has a fortune which is worth so many
units of measure of values, and these units all belong
to one person.

So, if we add 7 to 8 (7 + 8), we add a number
to a number
, and these numbers for a definite
reason represent in themselves groups of homogeneous

Again, when the child shows us the 9, he is
handling a rod which is inflexible––an object complete
in itself, yet composed of nine equal parts
which can be counted. And when he comes to
add 8 to 2, he will place next to one another, two
rods, two objects, one of which has eight equal
lengths and the other two. When, on the other
hand, in ordinary schools, to make the calculation
easier, they present the child with different
objects to count, such as beans, marbles,
etc., and when, to take the case I have quoted
(8 + 2), he takes a group of eight marbles and
adds two more marbles to it, the natural impression
in his mind is not that he has added 8 to 2,
but that he has added 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 +
1 + 1 to 1 + 1. The result is not so clear, and the
child is required to make the effort of holding in
his mind the idea of a group of eight objects as
one united whole, corresponding to a single number,

This effort often puts the child back, and delays
his understanding of number by months or even

The addition and subtraction of numbers under
ten are made very much simpler by the use of the
didactic material for teaching lengths. Let the
child be presented with the attractive problem of
arranging the pieces in such a way as to have a
set of rods, all as long as the longest. He first
arranges the rods in their right order (the long
stair); he then takes the last rod (1) and lays it
next to the 9. Similarly, he takes the last rod
but one (2) and lays it next to the 8, and so on up
to the 5.

This very simple game represents the addition
of numbers within the ten: 9 + 1, 8 + 2, 7 + 3,
6 + 4. Then, when he puts the rods back in their
places, he must first take away the 4 and put it
back under the 5, and then take away in their turn
the 3, the 2, the 1. By this action he has put the
rods back again in their right gradation, but he has
also performed a series of arithmetical subtractions,
10 – 4, 10 – 3, 10 – 2, 10 – 1.

The teaching of the actual figures marks an
advance from the rods to the process of counting
with separate units. When the figures are known,
they will serve the very purpose in the abstract
which the rods serve in the concrete; that is, they
will stand for the uniting into one whole of a certain
number of separate units.

The synthetic function of language and the wide
field of work which it opens out for the intelligence
is demonstrated, we might say, by the function of
the figure, which now can be substituted for the
concrete rods.

The use of the actual rods only would limit
arithmetic to the small operations within the ten
or numbers a little higher, and, in the construction
of the mind, these operations would advance
very little farther than the limits of the first simple
and elementary education of the senses.

The figure, which is a word, a graphic sign, will
permit of that unlimited progress which the mathematical
mind of man has been able to make in the
course of its evolution.

In the material there is a box containing smooth
cards, on which are gummed the figures from one
to nine, cut out in sandpaper. These are analogous
to the cards on which are gummed the sandpaper
letters of the alphabet. The method of
teaching is always the same. The child is made
to touch
the figures in the direction in which they
are written, and to name them at the same time.

In this case he does more than when he learned
the letters; he is shown how to place each figure
upon the corresponding rod. When all the figures
have been learned in this way, one of the first exercises
will be to place the number cards upon the
rods arranged in gradation. So arranged, they
form a succession of steps on which it is a pleasure
to place the cards, and the children remain for
a long time repeating this intelligent game.

After this exercise comes what we may call the
“emancipation” of the child. He carried his own
figures with him, and now using them he will know
how to group units together.

Fig. 41.––Counting Boxes.

For this purpose we have in the didactic material
a series of wooden pegs, but in addition to
these we give the children all sorts of small objects––sticks,
tiny cubes, counters, etc.

The exercise will consist in placing opposite a
figure the number of objects that it indicates. The
child for this purpose can use the box which is
included in the material. (Fig. 41.) This box is
divided into compartments, above each of which is
printed a figure and the child places in the compartment
the corresponding number of pegs.

Another exercise is to lay all the figures on the
table and place below them the corresponding
number of cubes, counters, etc.

This is only the first step, and it would be impossible
here to speak of the succeeding lessons
in zero, in tens and in other arithmetical processes––for
the development of which my larger works
must be consulted. The didactic material itself,
however, can give some idea. In the box containing
the pegs there is one compartment over which
the 0 is printed. Inside this compartment “nothing
must be put,” and then we begin with one.

Zero is nothing, but it is placed next to one to
enable us to count when we pass beyond 9––thus,


Fig. 42.––Arithmetic Frame.

If, instead of the piece 1, we were to take pieces
as long as the rod 10, we could count 10, 20, 30, 40,
50, 60, 70, 80, 90. In the didactic material there
are frames containing cards on which are printed
such numbers from 10 to 90. These numbers
are fixed into a frame in such a way that the
figures 1 to 9 can be slipped in covering the zero.
If the zero of 10 is covered by 1 the result is 11,
if with 2 it becomes 12, and so on, until the
last 9. Then we pass to the twenties (the
second ten), and so on, from ten to ten. (Fig.

For the beginning of this exercise with the cards
marking the tens we can use the rods. As we
begin with the first ten (10) in the frame, we take
the rod 10. We then place the small rod 1 next
to rod 10, and at the same time slip in the number
1, covering the zero of the 10. Then we take
rod 1 and figure 1 away from the frame, and
put in their place rod 2 next to rod 10, and figure
2 over the zero in the frame, and so on, up to 9.
To advance farther we should need to use two
rods of 10 to make 20.

The children show much enthusiasm when
learning these exercises, which demand from them
two sets of activities, and give them in their
work clearness of idea.

In writing and arithmetic we have gathered the
fruits of a laborious education which consisted in
coordinating the movements and gaining a first
knowledge of the world. This culture comes as a
natural consequence of man’s first efforts to put
himself into intelligent communication with the

All those early acquisitions which have brought
order into the child’s mind, would be wasted
were they not firmly established by means of
written language and of figures. Thus established,
however, these experiences open up an unlimited
field for future education. What we have
done, therefore, is to introduce the child to a
higher level––the level of culture––and he will now
be able to pass on to a school, but not the school we
know to-day, where, irrationally, we try to give
culture to minds not yet prepared or educated to
receive it

To preserve the health of their minds, which
have been exercised and not fatigued by the order
of the work, our children must have a new kind
of school for the acquisition of culture. My experiments
in the continuation of this method for
older children are already far advanced.


A brief description such as this, of the means
which are used in the “Children’s House,” may
perhaps give the reader the impression of a logical
and convincing system of education. But the importance
of my method does not lie in the organization
itself, but in the effects which it produces
on the child
. It is the child who proves
the value of this method by his spontaneous manifestations,
which seem to reveal the laws of
man’s inner development.[B] Psychology will
perhaps find in the “Children’s Houses” a laboratory
which will bring more truths to light than
thus hitherto recognized; for the essential factor
in psychological research, especially in the field of
psychogenesis, the origin and development of the
mind, must be the establishment of normal conditions
for the free development of thought.

As is well known, we leave the children free
in their work, and in all actions which are not of
a disturbing kind. That is, we eliminate disorder,
which is “bad,” but allow to that which is orderly
and “good” the most complete liberty of manifestation.

The results obtained are surprising, for the
children have shown a love of work which no one
suspected to be in them, and a calm and an orderliness
in their movements which, surpassing the
limits of correctness have entered into those of
“grace.” The spontaneous discipline, and the
obedience which is seen in the whole class,
constitute the most striking result of our method.

The ancient philosophical discussion as to
whether man is born good or evil is often brought
forward in connection with my method, and many
who have supported it have done so on the ground
that it provides a demonstration of man’s natural
goodness. Very many others, on the contrary,
have opposed it, considering that to leave children
free is a dangerous mistake, since they have in
them innate tendencies to evil.

I should like to put the question upon a more
positive plane.

In the words “good” and “evil” we include the
most varying ideas, and we confuse them especially
in our practical dealings with little children.

The tendencies which we stigmatize as evil in
little children of three to six years of age are often
merely those which cause annoyance to us adults
when, not understanding their needs, we try to
prevent their every movement, their every attempt
to gain experience for themselves in the world
touching everything, etc.). The child, however,
through this natural tendency, is led to coordinate
his movements
and to collect impressions,
especially sensations of touch, so that when prevented
he rebels, and this rebellion forms almost
the whole of his “naughtiness.”

What wonder is it that the evil disappears when,
if we give the right means for development and
leave full liberty to use them, rebellion has no
more reason for existence?

Further, by the substitution of a series of outbursts
of joy for the old series of outbursts of
rage, the moral physiognomy of the child comes
to assume a calm and gentleness which make him
appear a different being.

It is we who provoked the children to the violent
manifestations of a real struggle for existence.
In order to exist according to the needs of their
psychic development
they were often obliged to
snatch from us the things which seemed necessary
to them for the purpose. They had to move contrary
to our laws, or sometimes to struggle with
other children to wrest from them the objects of
their desire.

On the other hand, if we give children the
means of existence, the struggle for it disappears,
and a vigorous expansion of life takes its place.
This question involves a hygienic principle connected
with the nervous system during the difficult
period when the brain is still rapidly
growing, and should be of great interest to
specialists in children’s diseases and nervous derangements.
The inner life of man and the
beginnings of his intellect are controlled by special
laws and vital necessities which cannot be
forgotten if we are aiming at health for mankind.

For this reason, an educational method, which
cultivates and protects the inner activities of the
child, is not a question which concerns merely the
school or the teachers; it is a universal question
which concerns the family, and is of vital interest
to mothers.


To go more deeply into a question is often the
only means of answering it rightly. If, for
instance, we were to see men fighting over a piece
of bread, we might say: “How bad men are!”
If, on the other hand, we entered a well-warmed
eating-house, and saw them quietly finding a place
and choosing their meal without any envy of
one another, we might say: “How good men
are!” Evidently, the question of absolute good
and evil, intuitive ideas of which guide us in
our superficial judgment, goes beyond such limitations
as these. We can, for instance, provide excellent
eating-houses for an entire people without
directly affecting the question of their morals.
One might say, indeed, that to judge by appearances,
a well-fed people are better, quieter, and
commit less crime
than a nation that is ill-nourished;
but whoever draws from that the conclusion
that to make men good it is enough to feed
them, will be making an obvious mistake.

It cannot be denied, however, that nourishment
will be an essential factor in obtaining goodness,
in the sense that it will eliminate all the evil acts,
and the bitterness
caused by lack of bread.

Now, in our case, we are dealing with a far
deeper need––the nourishment of man’s inner
life, and of his higher functions. The bread that
we are dealing with is the bread of the spirit, and
we are entering into the difficult subject of the
satisfaction of man’s psychic needs.

We have already obtained a most interesting
result, in that we have found it possible to present
new means of enabling children to reach a higher
level of calm and goodness, and we have been able
to establish these means by experience. The
whole foundation of our results rests upon these
means which we have discovered, and which may
be divided under two heads––the organization of
, and liberty.

It is the perfect organization of work, permitting
the possibility of self-development and giving
outlet for the energies, which procures for each
child the beneficial and calming satisfaction. And
it is under such conditions of work that liberty
leads to a perfecting of the activities, and to the
attainment of a fine discipline which is in itself
the result of that new quality of calmness that
has been developed in the child.

Freedom without organization of work would be
useless. The child left free without means of
work would go to waste, just as a new-born baby,
if left free without nourishment, would die of
starvation. The organization of the work, therefore,
is the corner-stone of this new structure of
goodness; but even that organization would be in
vain without the liberty to make use of it, and
without freedom for the expansion of all those
energies which spring from the satisfaction of the
child’s highest activities.

Has not a similar phenomenon occurred also in
the history of man? The history of civilization
is a history of successful attempts to organize
work and to obtain liberty. On the whole, man’s
goodness has also increased, as is shown by his
progress from barbarism to civilization, and it
may be said that crime, the various forms of wickedness,
cruelty and violence have been gradually
decreasing during this passage of time.

The criminality of our times, as a matter of
fact, has been compared to a form of barbarism
surviving in the midst of civilized peoples. It is,
therefore, through the better organization of work
that society will probably attain to a further purification,
and in the meanwhile it seems unconsciously
to be seeking the overthrow of the last
barriers between itself and liberty.

If this is what we learn from society, how great
should be the results among little children from
three to six years of age if the organization of their
work is complete, and their freedom absolute? It
is for this reason that to us they seem so good,
like heralds of hope and of redemption.

If men, walking as yet so painfully and imperfectly
along the road of work and of freedom,
have become better, why should we fear that the
same road will prove disastrous to the children?

Yet, on the other hand, I would not say that
the goodness of our little ones in their freedom
will solve the problem of the absolute goodness or
wickedness of man. We can only say that we have
made a contribution to the cause of goodness by
removing obstacles which were the cause of violence
and of rebellion.

Let us “render, therefore, unto Cæsar the things
that are Cæsar’s, and unto God the things that are



The single staff is used in the Conservatoire of Milan and
utilized in the Perlasca method.


See the chapters on Discipline in my larger works.

Transcriber’s Note:

Illustrations have been moved closer to their relevant paragraphs.

The page numbers in the List of Illustrations do not reflect the new
placement of the illustrations, but are as in the original.

The list of “didactic material for the education of the senses
on pages 18-19 is missing item (j) as in the original.

Author’s archaic and variable spelling is preserved.

Author’s punctuation style is preserved.

Typographical problems have been changed and these are

Transcriber’s Changes:

Page vii: Was ’marvellous’ [In fact, Helen Keller is a marvelous example of the phenomenon common to all human beings]

Page 46: Was ’anvles’ [which vary either according to their sides or according to their angles (the equilateral, isosceles, scalene, right angled, obtuse angled, and acute)]

Page 63: Added commas [recognized and arranged in order––doh, re, doh, re, mi; doh, re, mi, fah; doh, re, mi, fah, soh, etc. In this way he succeeds in arranging all the]

Fig. 35 caption: Was ’si’ [the spaces which remain where the discs are far apart: do-re, re-mi, fah-soh, soh-la, la-ti. The discs for the semitones]