274 THE MONTESSORI METHOD
figures, from being at first short and confused, become gradually longer, and more nearly parallel, until in many cases the figures are filled in by means of perfectly regular up and down strokes, extending from one side of the figure to the other. In such a case, it is evident that the child is master of the pencil. The muscular mechanism, necessary to the management of the instrument of writing, is established. We may, therefore, by examining such designs, arrive at a clear idea of the maturity of the child in the matter of holding the pencil or pen in hand. To vary these exercises, we use the outline drawings already described. Through these designs, the manipulation of the pencil is perfected, for they oblige the child to make lines of various lengths, and make him more and more secure in his use of the pencil.
If we could count the lines made by a child in the filling in of these figures, and could transform them into the signs used in writing, they would fill many, many copybooks ! Indeed, the security which our children attain is likened to that of children in our ordinary third elementary grade. When for the first time they take a pen or a pencil in hand, they know how to manage it almost as well as a person wrho has written for a long time.
I do not believe that any means can be found which will so successfully and, in so short a space of time, establish this mastery. And with it all, the child is happy and diverted. My old method for the deficients, that of following with a small stick the contours of raised letters, was, when compared with this, barren and miserable!
Even when the children know how to write they continue these exercises, which furnish an unlimited progression, since the designs may be varied and complicated. The children follow in each design essentially the same