362 THE MONTESSORI METHOD
this natural instinct " to take hold of everything," and to recognise the relations of gRometrical figures, that we prepare our little four-year-old men for the joy and triumph they experience later over the phenomenon of spontaneous writing.
The child who throws himself on the writing-pad, the cover to the ink-well, and such objects, always struggling in vain to attain his desire, always hindered and thwarted by people stronger than he, always excited and weeping over the failure of his desperate efforts, is wasting nervous force. His parents are mistaken if they think that such a child ever gets any real rest, just as they are mistaken when they call " naughty" the little man longing for the foundations of his intellectual edifice. The children in our schools are the ones who are really at rest, ardently and blessedly free to take out and put back in their right places or grooves, the gRometric figures offered to their instinct for higher self-development; and they, rejoicing in the most entire spiritual calm, have no notion that their eyes and hands are initiating them into the mysteries of a new language.
The majority of our children become calm as they go through such exercises, because their nervous system is at rest. Then we say that such children are quiet and good; external discipline, so eagerly sought after in ordinary schools is more than achieved.
However, as a calm man and a self-disciplined man are not one and the same, so here the fact which manifests itself externally by the calm of the children is in reality a phenomenon merely physical and partial compared to the real self-discipline which is being developed in them.
Often (and this is another misconception) we think all we need to do, to obtain a voluntary action from a child,