358 .THE MONTESSORI METHOD
aware that we are saying nothing new. "No matter how many times we repeat the Lord's Prayer, it is always new. "No two persons could be more convinced of mutual love than sweethearts and yet they are the very ones who repeat endlessly that they love each other.
But in order to repeat in this manner, there must first exist the idea to be repeated. A mental grasp of the idea, is indispensable to the beginning of repetition. The exercise which develops life, consists in the repetition, not in the mere grasp of the idea. When a child has attained this stage, of repeating an exercise, he is on the way to self-development, and the external sign of this condition is his self-discipline.
This phenomenon does not always occur. The same exercises are not repeated by children of all ages. In fact, repetition corresponds to a need. Here steps in the experimental method of education. It is necessary to offer those exercises which correspond to the need of development felt by an organism, and if the child's age has carried him past a certain need, it is never possible to obtain, in its fulness, a development which missed its proper moment. Hence children grow up, often fatally and irrevocably, imperfectly developed.
Another very interesting observation is that which relates to the length of time needed for the execution of actions. Children, who are undertaking something for the first time are extremely slow. Their life is governed in this respect by laws especially different from ours. Little children accomplish slowly and perseveringly, various complicated operations agreeable to them, such as dressing, undressing, cleaning the room, washing themselves, setting the table, eating, etc. In all this they are extremely patient, overcoming all the difficulties pre-