Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

The Montessori manual, in which Dr. Montessori's teachings and educational occupations are arranged in practical exercises or lessons for the mother or the teacher online

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THE MONTESSORI MANUAL




Dr. Montessori



I THE

MONTESSORI MANUAL



IN WHICH DR. MONTESSORI 'S TEACHINGS AND EDUCATIONAL

OCCUPATIONS ARE ARRANGED IN PRACTICAL EXERCISES

OR LESSONS FOR THE MOTHER OR THE TEACHER



BY

DOROTHY CANFIELD FISHER

AUTHOR OF "A MONTESSORI MOTHER,"
"THE SQUIRREL-CAGE," ETC.



CHICAGO

THE W. E. RICHARDSON CO.
1913






Copyright 1913

BY

THE W. E. RICHARDSON CO.



All Right* Reserved, Including That

of Translation into Foreign

Languages.



FOREWORD

It is now a year since the publication of "The Montessori
Mother, ' ' a year which has brought to the author of that volume a
great mass of correspondence and innumerable personal interviews
with American mothers interested in the new ideas about the edu-
cation of young children. This first-hand experience with a wide
circle of searchers for information has shown me the need, in the
case of mothers untrained in educational methods, of a more con-
crete and definite and less philosophical presentation of the ideas of
the great Italian teacher.

This unpretentious Manual is designed to meet that need and to
be used by mothers of young children.

It is also hoped that teachers will receive valuable hints from
the suggestions in its pages, which their greater experience and pro-
fessional training will enable them to expand into school-room exer-
cises. For instance, many of the games and all of the gymnastic
exercises suggested are practicable and desirable for any play-
ground where young children gather.

As a majority of the letters received from inquiring mothers
have been concerned with the prickly questions of obedience and
the general disciplinary atmosphere of the young child's life, I
have thought best to add to the remarks about the use of the manu-
factured and home-made apparatus, some practical hints about the
disciplinary management of young children. It is my earnest hope
that these suggestions as to the daily routine of life for young chil-
dren will aid some of the mothers perplexed about the problem of
teaching their children the habit of cheerful, sunny self-discipline
and self-control.

DOROTHY CANFIELD FISHER.
Arlington, Vermont, August, 1913.



281463



TABLE OF CONTENTS
SOMETHING WRONG WITH MODERN EDUCATION

DR. MONTESSORI TO THE RESCUE HER GREAT IDEA

AN ITALIAN CASA DEI BAMBINI



9-15
16-21
22-29



USE OF THE APPARATUS IN AMERICAN HOMES AND SCHOOLS,

FOR EXERCISES AND DETAILS, SEE INDEX. 30-102

NATURE STUDY 103-106

MONTESSORI DISCIPLINE AND OBEDIENCE 107-123

SOME QUESTIONS THAT ARE ANSWERED FOR MOTHERS AND

TEACHERS 24



ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE

DR. MONTESSOEI Frontispiece

AT UNDIRECTED PLAY WITH THE DIDACTIC OR SENSE TRAINING

MATERIALS 14

CHILDREN BUSY WITH THE CYLINDRICAL INSERTS 20

THE DRESSING FRAMES ARE FASCINATING FOR SMALL CHILDREN 20
LEARNING MUSCULAR CO-ORDINATION BY MEANS OF MENTAL

INSETS 20

THE BLINDFOLD GAME WITH THE WOODEN INSETS DEVELOP-
ING THE MUSCULAR SENSE 20

EXERCISING THE SENSE OF TOUCH COMBINED WITH MUSCULAR

SENSE IN LEARNING THE FORM OF LETTERS 38

WORKING -WITH THE MONTESSORI MOVABLE ALPHABET 38

A SPONTANEOUS WRITING LESSON 54

THE MONTESSORI LONG STAIR 54

CHILDREN PUTTING AWAY DIDACTIC MATERIAL, NATIONAL KIN-
DERGARTEN COLLEGE, CHICAGO 86

TORRESDALE HOUSE 102

JUNIOR MONTESSORI ROOM, TORRESDALE 102

BEPEESENTATIVE PARTS OF THE MONTESSOEI DIDACTIC
APPARATUS

(Opposite Page 30)

Color Spools Page 30

Buttoning and Lacing Frames, Exercise Two Plate I

Solid Geometrical Insets, Exercise One . . , Plate II

The Long Stair, Exercise Six Plate II

The Tower, Exercise Four .Plate III

7



8 . . ILLUSTRATIONS

The Broad Stair, Exercise Five Plate III

Sandpaper Board, No. 1, Exercise Seven Plate IV

Sandpaper Board, No. 2, Exercise Eight Plate IV

Color Boxes, Exercises Sixteen and Seventeen Plate V

Sound Boxe*, Exercise Ten Plate V

Plain Geometrical Insets, Exercises Eleven and Twelve.Plate VI

Plain Geometrical Forms, Exercise Thirteen Plate VII

Parts of Movable Alphabet, Exercise Nineteen Plate VIII

Computing Boxes, Exercises Twenty-three and

Twenty-four Plate VIII

Illustrations in this volume, if not otherwise indicated below the illus-
trations themselves, are copyrighted 1913, by The House of Childhood, Inc.,
200 Fifth Ave., New York, N. Y. This firm has been designated by Dr.
Montessori as the sole licensee for her apparatus in the United States and
Canada. They manufacture and distribute the Didactic Apparatus herein
illustrated.



THE MONTESSORI MANUAL

i

SOMETHING WRONG WITH MODERN
EDUCATION

One of the most distinguishing features of twen-
tieth-century life is the deep-rooted, wide-spread
dissatisfaction with the way modern children are
being educated. In most great world-centers one
finds the same naive certainty that there, in that
spot, the problem is most insoluble, and that else-
where conditions are better. In our America
everyone is decrying our national fault of cheap
superficiality as the poison of our schools and look-
ing with longing eyes toward the " thoroughness"
of German and English methods. In England
they are bewailing their hide-bound, slow conserv-
atism and envying American flexibility and quick-
ness in facing the problem of education. In
France they are appalled at the mental inertia of
the pupils and in Germany they are crying out
that their insistence on the letter has killed the
spirit.



10 THE MONTESSORI MANUAL

The truth seems to be that we are suddenly
demanding more of education than we ever before
dreamed possible. It is not that our schools or
our methods of education are worse than those
which have preceded them, but that we see them
to be so far, far below what they might be what
they ought to be. The disquieting truth which
has so upset us all is that there is no real reason
why every child should not be really educated in
the way which would bring out the greatest
number possible of his own individual powers,
which are, of course, different from the powers
of every other human being in the world.

We are all dolefully agreed that this is not being
done, that a large per cent of the innate abilities
of the population of the world is wasted for lack
of proper training, and that a tragic per cent of
the time spent in school, is spent to no purpose,
is practically blotted from the all-too-short lives
of the helpless children, subjected to a meaningless
routine.

A highly successful head of a department in
a New York Public High School told me, not
long ago, that after his lifetime of experience
in modern education he had sickening moments of
doubt as to whether the whole system did not do
more harm than good, inasmuch as it seemed to
crush out what small natural, genuine



SOMETHING WRONG WITH MODERN EDUCATION 11

abilities the children have, in order to replace
these by a certain amount of rote-learned " in-
formation." "We destroy," he said, sadly, "the
living, vital, eternal and immortal processes of
invention, resourcefulness and logic and prop up
unsteadily in their places, a large number of facts,
which will all be swept away by the research of
the next fifty years."

This note of alarm is to be heard from every
corner of the civilized world, clear, unmistakable,
practically unanimous. But the chorus of sug-
gested causes for this lamentable condition is confus-
ing in its variety; while as for possible remedies,
the contradictory recommendations are deafening
and innumerable.

TIME UNPROFITABLY SPENT. And yet there are
one or two common notes, one or two commonly
admitted flaws in present systems of education.
Everywhere people cry out that children do not
make the most of their time; that only a small
part of their school-life is spent in educating
themselves; that most of it seems to be spent
unprofitably, for one reason or another, mostly for
reasons connected with our traditional ideals of
school order and discipline and regularity. And
yet these ideals are, in spite of all the uneasiness,
usually accepted unquestioningly, as though they
were axiomatic laws of nature. We are told that



12 THE MONTESSORI MANUAL

with modern conditions, there cannot be, at the
very least, less than thirty children in a class;
which means with present school methods that dur-
ing a great deal of the time, twenty-nine children
are sitting passively, waiting their turn, while one
child is getting a little brief educational exercise;
which means that lessons must be kept down to
the capacity of the dullest of the thirty and,
therefore, that twenty-nine children, finishing their
lesson before him, must pass empty, profitless time,
varying in a vicious ratio according to their
native ability.

THE BRIGHT CHILD UNPROVIDED FOR BY PRESENT
SYSTEM. Everyone must remember the pregnant
exclamation of the old educator at the great edu-
cational convention, "We have methods for the
dull child, and systems for the deficient child, but
God help the bright child!"

To keep thirty children moving as one, which
is (so we seem to think) the only way to avoid
intellectual and moral anarchy and chaos, a great
deal of avowed and a still greater deal of un-
avowed marking-time is necessary. One boy has
a natural gift for mathematics, and in two months
time has mastered the arithmetical work intended
for the year in his class. Is his mind given more
of the food it craves and which it can so well
digest? Is he allowed to go on, to take the next



SOMETHING WKONG WITH MODERN EDUCATION 13

step for which he is so eagerly ready? Not at
all. His memory is not quick to retain the in-
sanities of English spelling, and hence, so goes our
logic, he must wait a year before he is allowed to
go forward in mathematics. He must waste a year
of his short life it is even worse than wasted, for
the continual reiteration in daily recitations of
problems which he has already mastered, dull the
natural keenness of his mind and sicken him of
the whole subject; so that when he is finally
allowed to advance, he has but a listless attention
for what, ten months before, would have been an
intellectual feast for an eager appetite.

ARBITRARY CLASSIFICATION UNDESIRABLE. Our edu-
cational specialists admit that this is unfortunate,
but insist that it is inevitable. What can be done?
A big schoolhouse, containing six hundred chil-
dren, would be, we are told, in utter confusion
and turmoil if the children were allowed continu-
ally to pass from one class to another. Who
would decide every day or even every week which
class each child belonged to? As if it made the
slightest difference what class a child belongs to,
if he is being satisfactorily educated! It seems
incredible to us now that in the eighteenth cen-
tury when Braddock's soldiers went marching out
to fight the Indians, that no one thought of ask-
ing, "What is the good of all those fine red coats,



14 THE MONTESSOEI MANUAL

if the soldiers only fight the worse because of
them?" Possibly in the twenty-first century it
will seem incredible that none of us asked, "What
is the good of classifying children arbitrarily if
they only learn the worse because of it?" Those
ordered phalanxes, marching up and down our
well-ordered schoolhouse halls, are all very well;
but have they anything to do with educating the
individual child and, of course, the individual
child is all we ever have to educate.

CHILDREN BECOME PASSIVE. In the chorus of
complaint of our systems of education, I detect
another note common to all countries and all tem-
peraments. Somehow, we accuse ourselves, we
have mismanaged things so that children in the
schoolroom have a strange tradition of passivity,
instead of their natural buoyant impulse to action,
so noticeable on their playgrounds. As one teacher
cried out to me not long ago in a fit of exaspera-
tion, "By the time they reach me they haven't
enough intellectual curiosity left to save their
minds alive! Do what I will, all they do is to
sit back and watch me teach." In our reaction
from the piercing intellectual bleakness of the
Puritan regime of force in education, we seem to
have created in our schoolrooms an enervating
atmosphere in which there is but little brisk, tonic
invitation to keep moving intellectually. The child






1




At undirected play with the didactic or sense-training materials



SOMETHING WRONG WITH MODERN EDUCATION 15

who sits passively quiet is too often praised as
being a "good" child. He is too often encouraged
to do this instead of to exercise his intellectual
muscles by a constant participation in a variety of
interesting movements, taken spontaneously.



II



DR. MONTESSORI TO THE RESCUE THE
UNDERLYING IDEA OF HER SYSTEM

It was with the echo in my ears of a great deal
of such clamor and unrest from both teachers and
parents that I went to Rome the winter of 1911-1912,
having for one of my objects the investigation of a
new system of education for very small children, said
to have been devised by an Italian woman. I
was in rather a sceptical frame of mind. There
have been in America a good many new " sys-
tems" of education which have come to very little.
Italy is notoriously behind the rest of the world
in her public schools. It seemed not likely that
America would have much to learn from a new
variety of Kindergarten established in Rome. Be-
fore I went to visit this new variety of infant-
school, I procured the book written on the sys-
tem by the woman-doctor who had founded it.
I found the volume in some ways rather hard
reading, written in difficult Italian, full of tech-
nical terms, medical facts of which I had been
ignorant, physiological pyschology and the nerv-

16



THE UNDERLYING IDEA 17

*

ous reactions in the human brain. But in spite
of all these difficulties I was held as I have
never been held by the most absorbing novel, and
when I finally laid down the bulky volume, it was
with the certainty of having seen a great light.

Here was a doctor, who had begun with a
purely medical interest in children's brains, who
had grappled hand to hand with the heart-break-
ing problem of the education of mentally deficient
children and who, in that struggle, had discovered
certain laws about the intellectual tendencies and
intellectual activities of childhood in general. She
" discovered" them, as a scientist does discover
general laws, as Newton discovered the law of
gravity. He was not the first man who had ever
seen an apple drop to the ground. Everybody for
centuries had known that they fall thus, and had
been taking advantage in a fitful, irregular way
of this only half-consciously known information.
Newton " discovered" no new thing. He formu-
lated the general underlying principles, involved
in phenomena already observed, he made that in-
formation accurate, definite, to be counted upon,
to be employed with certainty of the result, to be
used, as it has been used, in the exploration of
the solar system.

Dr. Montessori emerged from her laboratory
work with deficient children with scientific proofs



18 THE MONTESSORI MANUAL

of certain fundamental principles of children's
intellectual processes. And, being a scientist, she
did what few of us really can do, she believed in
facts scientifically proved.

ACTS UPON FACTS SCIENTIFICALLY PROVED.
What were these facts? In essence nothing new,
nothing that we do not admit in theory, although
we do not have the courage to act upon them.
What is so startling about Dr. Montessori 's atti-
tude towards education is the honest, scientist's
integrity of her logic. She continually says, in
substance, "If that is the way children are made,
our business is to educate them accordingly."

One of the facts she rediscovered is the old
threadbare truism that every child is different
from every other child. We all knew that before.
The only difference between Dr. Montessori and
the rest of us is that we disregard this well-
known factor in the problem and that she takes
it fully into account. It is not surprising that she
does her educational sum with much more nearly
an approximation to the right answer, than our
wildly varying and always highly inaccurate re-
sults.

Dr. Montessori found that not only does every
child differ from every other child but, not being
a fixed and inanimate object, he is in a constant
state of flux, and differs from himself, from day



'THE UNDERLYING IDEA 19

to day, as he grows. His attention, his memory,
his mental endurance, his intellectual interest and
curiosity, are not only unlike those of the child
next him in school, but will be tomorrow differ-
ent from what they are today. Then instead of
turning tail and running away (as most of our
educators do) from the tremendous problem in-
volved in adequately treating such complicated
little organisms, Dr. Montessori faced the situa-
tion squarely, accepting as every scientist does, the
odds given him by Mother Nature. It was evi-
dent to her that the usual " class recitation" and
"class lessons" were out of the question, since
they could at the best, possibly fit the needs of
only one child in the class. And yet it is obvi-
ously impossible, as the world is made up, to have
a teacher for every child. There was only one
way out things must somehow be so organized
and arranged that, for most of the time, the child
can and shall teach himself.

THE UNDERLYING IDEA. And here Dr. Mon-
tessori found herself in happy accord with another
fundamental principle of the growth of childhood,
which she had discovered or rediscovered and
which may be said broadly to be the master idea
of her system. The central idea of the Montessori
system, on which every smallest bit of apparatus,
every detail of technic rests solidly, is a full recog-



20 THE MONTESSORI MANUAL

nition of the fact that no human being is educated
by anyone else. He must do it himself or it is
never done. The learner must do his own learn-
ing, and this granted, it follows naturally that th<
less he is interfered with by arbitrary restraint
and vexatious, unnecessary rules, the more quickly,
easily and spontaneously he will learn. Everyon<
who wishes to adopt her system, or to train chil-
dren according to her method, must learn con-
stantly to repeat to himself and to act upon, a1
every moment, this maxim, "All growth must come
from a VOLUNTARY action of the child HIMSELF."

THE SYSTEM MUST FIT THE CHILD. In this
respect again Dr. Montessori took squarely the
stand that education must be made to fit the child
and the child not forced to fit a preconceived idea
of what education ought to be or do. She laic
down in the first place the principle that one
the essentials of education is that children shall
get that individual attention they need so much,
by giving it to themselves, each child being his own
teacher. She now further stated as another essen-
tial element that education should be so organized
that the child shall ardently desire to teach him-
self and shall enjoy doing it more than anything
else.

To reduce then, to the barest outline (becai
that is the most easily grasped and retained),




Children busy with the Cylindrical The Dressing Frames are fascinating

Insets tor small children




Learning Muscular Co-ordination by The Blindfold Game with the Wooden
means of the Metal Insets Insets Developing the Muscular

Sense



THE UNDERLYING IDEA 21

new system of training children, one can say that
it rests upon a full conviction of these three facts
about the nature of children:

First. Children are all different from each
other, and hence need for their fullest development,
the greatest possible liberty for their individual-
ities to grow; and that, though of course there are
many points in common, they must not be treated
in the lump, but individually.

Second. Children cannot, so to speak, learn
from the outside. That is, that the impulse to
learn must come from within their own minds.
There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule.
Children must wish to learn, or it is a physical
impossibility for them to do so.

Third. Children are so made that, given proper
conditions, they prefer educating themselves to any
other occupation.



Ill



AN ITALIAN CASA DEI BAMBINI A DAY
WITH THE CHILDREN'S ACTIVITIES

What has been said thus far is almost certain
to have aroused in the minds of many readers the
question, "How in the world does Dr. Montessori
accomplish all this?" or, perhaps the more skep-
tical exclamation, "It can't be done, by Dr. Mon-
tessori or anyone else!" How can children teach
themselves? How can they learn without detailed
verbal instructions from a teacher?

How does a boy learn to climb an apple tree?
By being turned loose in company with the tree
at that period of his life when he feels a surging
natural impulse to climb trees. A boy of three
can play about the foot of an apple tree day after
day and no more think of climbing it than we of
walking the ridge pole of our house. A man of
twenty-one can play tennis, or plough, under the
tree's branches with a similar lack of monkey-like
desire to climb from branch to branch. But some-
where between those ages, there is a period in every
normal life when, if the opportunity is present, a

22



AN ITALIAN CASA DEI BAMBINi 23

vast amount of muscular agility, strength and
accuracy are acquired, together with considerable
physical courage, some daring, some prudence, and
a fair amount of good judgment, all without the
slightest need either to force or persuade the child
to the acquisition of these desirable qualities.

THE PURPOSE OF THE MONTESSORI DEVICES AND
THEIR EDUCATIONAL VALUE. Now, for all intents
and purposes, the Montessori apparatus, so much
talked of, so scientifically and ingeniously devised,
is simply composed of supplementary apple trees.
It is made up of devices and inventions which are
intended, first, to stimulate the little child's natural
desire to act and learn through action; second, to
provide him with action which shall give him a
better control of his own body and will-power; and
third, which shall lead him naturally from a
simple action to a more difficult one.

TRAINS THE FIVE SENSES. In the case of very
little children this is (as far as concerns the
formal Montessori apparatus sold) largely con-
nected with the training of the senses. The im-
portance of this detailed, direct education of the
five senses may not be at first apparent. But it
is evident that our five senses are our only means
of conveying information to our brains about the
external world which surrounds us, and it is equally
evident that to act wisely and surely in the world,



24 THE MONTESSORI MANUAL

the brain has need of the fullest and most accu-
rate information possible. Hence it is a foregone
conclusion (once we think of it at all) that the
education of all the senses of a child to rapidity,
agility and exactitude, is of great importance not
at all for the sake of the information acquired at
the time by the child, but for the sake of the
five, finely accurate instruments which this educa-
tion puts under his control.

MONTESSORI SPIRIT Is THE FIRST ESSENTIAL.
Much has been written and said about the Mon-
tessori Didactic Apparatus, but before I begin on
a description of the apparatus, or of a Casa dei
Bambini, I wish to make this protest. The use
of her apparatus without an understanding of the
underlying principles and without the spirit that
animates all true Montessori work will result only
in confusion and disorder. The Montessori Didac-
tic Apparatus is a part of the system, but the
most vital element is the Montessori spirit. The
apparatus is immensely ingenious, it is wonder-
fully successful, it accomplishes its purpose with
great economy of effort, but the apparatus alone
is not enough. The mother on a desert island who
is dominated by Dr. Montessori 's love and
respect for the child would accomplish much more
without the formal apparatus than a mother who
uses it without the sympathy and understanding



AN ITALIAN CASA DEI BAMBINI 25

requisite for success. So, dear mother, do not
become discouraged if you cannot afford the
apparatus. Above all have faith and confidence
in your child, and your ability to put the Mon-
tessori spirit into the everyday affairs of the
child's home life.

THE CASA DEI BAMBINI. If you wish to see a
typical Casa dei Bambini (which means Children's
Home) you are to imagine thirty children turned
loose, absolutely loose, in a big, airy room, fur-
nished with little chairs and tables, light enough
for the little ones to handle, with room outdoors,


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Online LibraryDorothy Canfield FisherThe Montessori manual, in which Dr. Montessori's teachings and educational occupations are arranged in practical exercises or lessons for the mother or the teacher → online text (page 1 of 7)