THE MECHANISM OF WRITING 281
degrees we must encourage it as a spontaneous act which is carried
on from the very first in an almost perfect manner.
MANNER OF APPLYING THE METHOD
The latest development of our experiment has led us to set up
a calmer, more orderly procedure, due to the fact that the children
see their companions writing, which, through imitation, incites
them to write as soon as they can. Then the written words are
no longer a surprise, but an achievement. This is the case also
with children who see people write in their homes, whilst this was
not so with the first children whose parents were all illiterate.
Hence, when the child writes his first word, he has not the whole
alphabet at his disposal; there is a limit to the number of words
which he can write, and he is not capable of finding out all the
possible combinations of words with only the letters which are
known to him. He never loses the great joy of the first written
word, but that no longer constitutes a stupifying surprise, because
he sees something similar happening every day, and he knows that
sooner or later it will happen to him also. That leads to the
establishment of a calm atmosphere, orderly and at the same time
wonderful because of its sudden, natural achievements.
Paying a visit to the Children's House, where I had also been
the day before, I chanced upon new facts. I saw two very small
children who were writing quietly, though vibrant with pride and
joy; the day before they were not yet writing. The Directress
told me that one of them began to write at eleven o'clock on the
previous morning and the other in the afternoon at three.
The occurrence is now regarded with the indifference which
custom brings, and is easily recognized as a natural form of deve-
lopment in the child.
The judgement of the mistress will decide if and when it is
suitable to encourage the child to write, when he, having passed
through the three stages of the preparatory exercise, does not yet
do it of his own accord. That is because, by keeping back writing