Children thrive best in the healthy open-air life of the country, and if there is any tendency to nervous disturbances the need for this becomes insistent. Physical training, further, includes the manual education of the child. The system of child-training advocated by Dr. Montessori is based upon the cultivation of tactile sensations and the development of manual dexterity. Exercises such as she has devised have an immediate effect in calming the nervous system and in changing the restless or irritable child into a self-restrained and eager worker. Lord Macaulay, whose phenomenal memory as a child has become proverbial, was so extraordinarily unhandy that throughout life he had considerable difficulty in putting on his gloves, while he had such trouble with shaving that on his return from India there were found in his luggage some fifty razors, none of which retained any edge, and nearly as many strops which had been cut to pieces in his irritated and ineffectual efforts. If we teach a child manual dexterity it is an advantage to him, because manual dexterity is seldom associated with restlessness and irritability of mind. To excel in some handicraft not only bespeaks the possession of self-control, it helps directly to cultivate it. The teaching of Froebel and Montessori holds good after nursery days are over.
Mental training enables the child to retain facts in his memory, to obtain information from as many sources as possible, to understand and piece them together, and finally to reach fresh conclusions from previously acquired data. So far as is possible the teacher must satisfy the natural desire to know the reason of things. It must be his endeavour to prevent the child from accepting any argument which he has not fully understood, and which, as a result, he is able not to reconstruct but only to repeat. Mental work which is slovenly and perfunctory is as harmful to the child’s education as mechanical work which is bungled and ineffective. Taking advantage of his natural aptitudes, his interest should be developed and extended in every way possible. Tasks which are accomplished without enthusiasm are labour expended in vain, because the knowledge so acquired is not assimilated and adds nothing to the child’s mental growth. There should be no sharp differentiation between work and play.