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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION                        359-

The first move made was to prepare an environment—the
Children's Church in which this place reserved for the faithful
was made to suit their small proportions, We furnished it with
little chairs and kneeling stools, and we had the holy-water basins
placed at the knee-height of an adult. Small pictures were hung
low down, and changed often according to the season of the year;
little statuettes and groups of statuettes represented the nativity,
the flight into Egypt, etc. At the windows were hung light cur-
tains, which the children could draw to shut out the light. They
took turns to prepare the church—to put the seats in place, to fill
the vases with flowers, to light some of the candles.

A priest instructed the children in religion and also officiated
in the church. Directly the simple little church was prepared and
opened for the use of the children there appeared, almost to our
surprise, a fruit of our method which we had not anticipated.
It was that the church is almost the end, up to which leads a great
part of the education which the method sets out to give. Some
exercises which, in the schools, seem to have no definite outside
purpose, find their application here. The silence, which has pre-
pared the child for withdrawing into himself, becomes the inner
restraint to be observed in the House of God, in the half-dark
surroundings, broken by the faint flickering of the candlelight.
Walking in silence without making a noise, moving chairs without
scraping the floor, rising up and sitting down quitely, passing
amongst benches and people without creating any disturbance,
carrying fragile objects in their hands and seeing that they are
not damaged, as for example vases full of water to be filled with
flowers and replaced on the altar, or lighted candles, the wax of
which must not be spilt over hands or clothes—all of these were
almost repetitions and at the same time applications of what the
child had learnt to do within the classroom walls. They must
appear to the tender intelligence as the purpose of the efforts so
patiently persisted in; hence there would arise a sense of gratitude,
joy and new dignity. At first the children carried out these
exercises in obedience to an inward impulse, but without a purpose;