Page:Melbourne and Mars.djvu/24

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22
MELBOURNE AND MARS.

sorry that the school time was over. There are a great number of pretty things in my recess the uses of which I do not yet know."

In this part of the diary there are many pages of rather vague description, such as that just quoted. But from it we gather that the teacher has the art of interesting children and enlisting their affections, and that the system of instruction is eminently suitable for children, for their faculties are always pleasantly on the alert and their minds and bodies are constantly occupied. Whatever the teacher does each child has to do, and furthermore it has to understand why. One child is never pushed forward at the expense of the others, and if one child in the class is a little dull both teacher and sharper pupils pay especial attention and keep it in pace with the rest.

No child was ever asked to remember anything or to repeat anything, and yet each child knew in a little while how to make each sign it had to copy, and what it meant, and the knowledge remained and grew and never became a burden.

In two years all but about six weeks from the time of joining Hildreth's class he reports himself as three years old, and as having finished his infant school course. He does not on this occasion express any wonder at the apparent confusion of dates. He is, however, engaged in astronomical studies, and comes to the truth in due time.

He reports progress thus:— "It does not fall to the lot of many men to have been twice educated as a child, and to be able to remember both methods and compare results. As a child I appear to know more now at three years of age, or reckoning by our time about five years and nine months, than I knew at ten years of age, the time I left school in my first childhood. I can read and write with perfect ease, and yet I never had to learn an alphabet or the spelling of any word. I can do many kinds of calculating mentally, and yet never committed to memory any table. It is the same with weights, measures and periods of time, a knowledge of them seems to have grown into my mind. I have not forgotten anything I have learned, and what I have learned is so intertwined with what I have done that one invariably suggests the other.

In calculating we had each an abacus with one hundred beads upon it, and could add, subtract, multiply, and divide small sums, and then we were shown the relationship between these calculations and those on our little boards.

It amused us very much to add up several sums on the abacus by placing the beads and then to do the same work in figures. We had no rules to learn; we simply extended the work done on the abacus by slow degrees. And as all things in my dreamland are calculated by tens and tenths, the ten tens on the abacus can evidently be made to help in all kinds of calculations.

It was just as easy to learn to read and write, for we had only to learn a new sign when we wanted to represent a new sound, and vice versa, each