290 THE MONTESSORI METHOD
letting it go hand in hand with the gradual formation of ideas. Think of what the result would have been had Nature acted imprudently as I had done! Suppose Nature had first allowed the human being to gather, by means of the senses, a rich and varied material, and to acquire a store of ideas, and had then completely prepared in him the means for articulate language, saying finally to the child, mute until that hour, " Go — Speak! " The result would have been a species of sudden madness, under the influence of which the child, feeling no restraints, would have burst into an exhausting torrent of the most strange and difficult words.
I believe, however, that there exists between the two extremes a happy medium which is the true and practical way. We should lead the child more gradually to the conquest of written language, yet we should still have it come as a spontaneous fact, and his work should from the first be almost perfect.
Experience has shown us how to control this phenomenon, and how to lead the child more calmly to this new power. The fact that the children see their companions writing, leads them, through imitation, to write as soon as they can. In this way, when the child writes he does not have the entire alphabet at his disposal, and the number of words which he can write is limited. He is not even capable of making all of the words possible through a combination of the letters which he does know. He still has the great joy of the first written word, but this is no longer the source of an overwhelming surprise, since he sees just such wonderful things happening each day, and knows that sooner or later the same gift will come to all. This tends to create a calm and ordered environment, still full of beautiful and wonderful surprises.