How to educate has entered pretty much every parent’s home this year in a new way. As I write this I am embracing our third month of facilitating online kindergarten for our first born. I keep coming across the importance of not just educating my child’s mind, but educating her heart.
Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. — Aristotle
At the forefront of my research was this ancient understanding of the importance of educating the heart. But what did it even mean? How do I develop the qualities that make us human? Is there a curriculum for benevolence?
Creating a Learning Space
However, readying ourselves for at-home learning was focused on the mechanics, the logistics. Where will the learning space be? What will it look like? What do we need in that space? Do we have all the necessary tools? How do I log on to what?
I created a corner for my daughter behind my own writing corner in a little room in our home that we refer to as the library. It is a quiet space that houses most of our book collection. Week after week my daughter became more proficient at navigating her online school, this new way of learning. As she became more practiced I was able to spend more time at my desk engaged in my own work as she learned independently.
I was reminded again of the importance of educating the heart as I took a moment to reflect on my own space. A banner that I hung next to my desk years ago all of a sudden had new meaning in our current context.
The Aha Moment
Not too long ago I finished reading The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary. I highly recommend this book to any parent at any stage in their parenthood. I learned so much from this book and I could write an entire series of articles on how it has changed me. But for this story the biggest takeaway was that we empower our children to be who they were born to be by transforming ourselves.
I’ve found this to be true in other relationships in life as well. I cannot change anyone but myself. I must be the change I want to see in others, in the world.
So, how can I educate my own heart and through my own discoveries lead my child? How can I cultivate kindness in myself? How can I expect my child to learn compassion if I am not practiced at being empathetic towards myself?
These questions lead to an aha moment that educating the heart was as simple as showing myself compassion.
A Self-Compassionate Teacher
Little by little I tried to add small acts of self-compassion. And to my amazement I watched my daughter’s heart change right along with her reading, writing and math skills.
Instead of shutting down every time she couldn’t do something perfect, she kept trying. She was kinder to her younger siblings and caregivers. Instead of asking why she wasn’t receiving gifts and cards from others, she did something little every day to try to brighten the day of someone else. It was evidence right before my eyes that compassion for others really starts with compassion for yourself.
Here are ideas I tried to practice self-compassion in an effort to educate the heart. I encourage you to try them too and see not only the difference it may make in you, but those that share space with you. Truly these are small acts that have the capacity to change the world.
Three Intentional Acts of Self-Compassion to Educate the Heart:
Take care of yourself as you would care for others. What really opened my eyes to this was the thought that if my child approached me saying they were hurting, I wouldn’t make them wait until it got worse before I tried to remedy their pain. So, why do I wait until things get really bad to care for my own pain? Either physical or mental. A quick daily check-in on how I am feeling and what I need has helped me to care for myself as I would for those in my care.
Eat mindfully to fuel your body. This has been a many year journey for me to fully embrace this practice that I shared HERE. Not every day is fully mindful, but I always try to have at least one mindful meal a day. This usually leads to the next being mindful too and it definitely makes a difference in how I feel about myself.
Find small acts of self-love that you can do daily. For the last three years I’ve participated in #SelfLoveSeptember and shared my journey on Instagram. The last two years I shared something I loved about myself for 30 days. This year I got my inspiration from an ebook by Elle Lindquist, 30 Days of Self-Love Practices and tried new ideas of how to show myself love. I find that fall is a great season for me to get back into the habit of showing myself love, but this can be done during any season that you feel you could use a reboot on self-love.
Part of being human is that sometimes habits break, even the good ones. So, I like to make a routine out of relearning and reengaging self-love practices each year. I hope that you can too. Just think how you could change the world! Never give up.