Experiential Knowledge: The Way God Teaches
Over the last couple of years, the Spirit has really been opening up my understanding, and I have just enjoyed revelation after revelation of God’s word. One of the lessons I received was learning how God teaches. I know what your thinking, “How can she know?” Don’t worry it’s all Biblical. I heart my Bible.
We are going to go way back to the beginning, to the very first lesson God ever gave man.
8 Yahweh God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to‡ him.” 19 Out of the ground Yahweh God formed every animal of the field, and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called every living creature became its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock, and to the birds of the sky, and to every animal of the field; but for man there was not found a helper comparable to him. 21 Yahweh God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As the man slept, he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Yahweh God made a woman from the rib which he had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of Man.”
God gave Adam a task that was specifically designed to show Adam that a helpmeet was good and desirable. Notice, God didn’t just tell Adam he needed a helpmeet or that it was even good to have one. Instead, God created a task to allow Adam to discover this idea for himself.
And so God has been doing this from the beginning of creation. Giving us tasks to complete so that through the experience of completing the task we discover for ourselves what is true and what is not true.
It is obvious that knowing something because we are told it is true is quite different from knowing something because we experienced its truth. Experiential Knowledge is superior, and yet, everyday school is designed to focus on memorizing information that we are told rather than experiencing the information for ourselves.
Once upon a time not very long ago, I was all about the classical way of doing things….memorize, memorize, memorize. But the Spirit has begun to steer me away from that because it is not the way in which the Father has designed us to learn. Instead, we work on cultivating experiential knowledge. What does that look like?
Well, it’s playful. Everyday life for a grown up is trying out ideas and discovering what works and doesn’t work for us. This is very true with children. When they are playing with toys and tools, they are trying out ideas for themselves. Where does being a tyrant lead you? Where does compromising lead you? When shouldn’t you compromise? What happens if you do this and do that? They are playing out history and science everyday.
Excellent literature both fiction and non-fiction give children an opportunity to consider a different view point and introduce different ideas. Remember that God takes a back seat in Adam’s first learning experience. He gives Adam the time to observe and consider what he sees. We too should be giving our children the time to observe and consider the literature they read.
Instead of opening up the discussion of literature with our own ideas, we should look to the children to provide the direction of the discussion. This offers several opportunities.
- We get to see what is on our children’s hearts.
- The child feels validated that they are indeed capable of thinking and discovering ideas for themselves.
- They are encouraged to know that their thoughts and ideas are worth considering.
Cultivating tasks that provide opportunity for experiential knowledge is essential to the Father’s way of teaching. Letting children run amuck 24/7 to learn life the hard way is certainly not God’s way. For Adam, He constructed a safe environment and a task that was within his capabilities. As parents, we construct a safe environment for our children giving them boundaries to protect them against danger. We should also be looking to construct tasks that are within their capabilities and focus on allowing them to discover truth for themselves.
I think for most we already do this naturally. We give them chores to do which teach them the benefits of hard work. We teach the importance of team work through games and family work tasks. Children experience the whys and hows of selfless thinking, and they know for themselves the value of selflessness.
For Everyday Homeschooling
So what does this look like for everyday homeschooling? I recently attended an online conference by the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning where I literally learned by experience what this method feels like. Dr. Caleb Gattegno went all across the world demonstrating to people the amazing capabilities of young students using his heuristic teaching technique with the useful Cuisenaire rods as the tool of discovery.
He saw first hand that experiential knowledge was far superior to memorization and it had the unique ability of advancing a child’s mathematical understanding in a way that memorization has failed to do over the last century. He created specific tasks for the students to do with the Cuisenaire rods, and through those tasks student began to observe the mathematical relationships that were being displayed. Then they began to be given tasks to manipulate those relationships, and with many opportunities to freely explore their understanding, the students began to develop a deep understanding of numbers.
Dr. Gattegno’s teaching pedagogy is most aptly known as teaching subordinate to learning. Lecturing and memorization take a backseat aka the teacher takes a backseat. The student is in control of the learning only to be challenged by the teacher to test out the student’s ideas. Students make observation, and then the teacher has opportunity to stretch the observation. “Is that observation true in this circumstance?” and the teacher would create a new environment for the student to test out their idea. Of course, another student may have already provided such an environment, and so the teacher encourages the students to test each others’ ideas for themselves.
The most excellent of people are always testing and challenging ideas of others, and we too should be cultivating this very mentality in our children. The Bronx Charter School of Better Learning applies this teaching style to all subjects. First, the teacher creates a task. It maybe that the task is persuasive writing. Second, the teacher considers what tools and skills will the child need. The teacher may decided that the student needed skills in writing their letters, spelling words and creating sentences in order to complete the task. Once it has been assess the students have all they need to complete the task, the task is then introduced. It could be that the teacher introduces a problem that recess is being canceled permanently for reasons specified. The teacher touches on something that students are passionate about, and the students must begin to write a persuasive paper to address those reasons for canceling recess. Again, you can see the pattern.
- Create an environment (task or problem to solve.)
- Offer opportunity for the student to express their observation.
- Challenge observation to stretch the student’s observation.
This is where my philosophy Play, Discover, Learn finds its origins. Creating playful environments that give playful tasks to the children to open the world of discovery to them in way that stretches and creates learning through experience.
Life is a task filled with lots of opportunities to play with great ideas, discover news ones and be filled with endless learning. Let’s give our children the confidence to tackle life by creating playful opportunities to discover ideas for themselves.
How are you cultivating experiential learning in your home?