292 THE MONTESSORI METHOD
She should do this instead of directly correcting his actual writing, for the child does not perfect himself by repeating the act of writing, but by repeating the acts preparatory to writing. I remember a little beginner who, wishing to make his blackboard writing perfect, brought all of the sandpaper letters with him, and before writing touched two or three times all of the letters needed in the words he wished to write. If a letter did not seem to him to be perfect he erased it and retouched the letter upon the card before rewriting.
Our children, even after they have been writing for a year, continue to repeat the three preparatory exercises. They thus learn both to write, and to perfect their writing, without really going through the actual act. With our children, actual writing is a test; it springs from an inner impulse, and from the pleasure of explaining a superior activity; it is not an exercise. As the soul of the mystic perfects itself through prayer, even so in our little ones, that highest expression of civilisation, written language, is acquired and improved through exercises which are akin to, but which are not, writing.
There is educational value in this idea of preparing oneself before trying, and of perfecting oneself before going on. To go forward correcting his own mistakes, boldly attempting things which he does imperfectly, and of which he is as yet unworthy dulls the sensitiveness of the child's spirit toward his own errors. My method of writing contains an educative concept; teaching the child that prudence which makes him avoid errors, that dignity which makes him look ahead, and which guides him to perfection, and that humility which unites him closely to those sources of good through which alone he can make a spiritual conquest, putting far from him the illusion that