New Year’s Resolutions have come under fire lately. My whole adult life, I’ve heard the (perhaps deserved) cynicism.
While I’m generally skeptical of what culture says we should do, I do like New Year’s Resolutions. The new year is a guaranteed fresh start, an official milestone to look forward to as the beginning of something good.
But I do often prove the cynics right by falling away from my good intentions by February. Sickness throws me off from my exercise plan, or several late nights in a row give me an excuse to stop waking up early.
Last year I had the best success yet with my resolutions, and that is because I tapped into something I only recently realized about myself: I am meant to be in school.
When my husband told me he’d like me to stop one of my jobs, I at first thought I would quit the home school co-op where I currently teach High School English (the other job in network marketing was far more lucrative). But every time I got in front of a classroom of high schoolers to talk about poetry, I had this sense of rightness, like I’m more myself there than anywhere else. Like this was what, in part, God created me—my specific likes and giftings—to do.
Once I realized that, my choice was easy: keep teaching. And this realization had the additional effect of helping me reorient my New Year’s goals. Now, instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I give myself New Year’s Classes.
This may seem like a slight change, just renaming the same thing, but it makes all the difference in the world to someone who values education like I have been (apparently) designed to value it.
Last year, I assigned myself 6 classes. Each time I planned my week, I prioritized what I needed to do by looking again at these classes and giving myself assignments. This kept my resolutions before my eyes on a rubber-meets-the-road level. Here’s the class list I posted on my fridge:
Family Finance 102
Creative Writing Seminar (outline due 6/30/18)
16th Century Literature with C. S. Lewis
Art: Scrapbooking (E’s Scrapbook due 10/18)
For Family Finance, now that our income was more regular, I wanted to make the most of it. We took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class at the beginning of the year, coupled with the excellent and admirable Grocery Budget Bootcamp (which was so good—you guys, it was like giving ourselves a raise). I started budgeting with YNAB (also like a raise) and reading their weekly educational emails. This class was a huge priority and, in my opinion, a huge success. A+ for this one.
Creative Writing was to jumpstart my languishing novel idea. One assignment was to watch all Brandon Sanderson’s free creative writing lectures online. I did so, but the idea ended up taking off so fast that I had abandoned the lectures and begun the draft even before the outline was due. So I worked ahead in that one—which helped when I stalled out in December, when a friend gave us Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as an early Christmas gift and I (ahem) stopped writing entirely. Uneven performance, but A-ish.
Parenting 102 (jokingly subtitled “So Now You Have Toddlers”) was basically just reading a bunch of parenting books. I did this intermittently throughout the year, but the class kept it feeling more official and less like a vague, guilty “I should probably read this, I guess.” B (completed assignments, but often failed in the field)
P.E. was my goal to exercise more. I had a few month-long stints of working out, but overall, this was a miserable failure. I’ve re-enrolled for this year. F, but with an optimistic smile.
16th Century Lit with C. S. Lewis: this was the name I gave to my goal of reading English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, my glorious Christmas gift from Cap in 2017. I ended up dropping this course (I was taking too many hours). No grade assigned.
Art: Scrapbooking was my goal of finishing my firstborn’s baby scrapbook by the time she turned five. I missed the due date. But I got farther than I would have if I hadn’t written it down! D – Unforgivably late work, but student shows potential.
So I didn’t do well in all my courses. But the idea of prioritizing my resolutions with weekly “assignments,” which always shifted with the needs of the week, was extremely motivating to me. So the vague resolution of “be better at the budget” became “By the end of this week, watch one more Financial Peace University course, complete one module of Grocery Budget Bootcamp, and meal plan with the stuff I already have in the freezer.” That, to me, was so much more doable.
Even with the “classes” I completely bombed, the mental trick worked so well for me that I’ve assigned myself new courses for 2019. You wanna hear them?
Parenting (Remedial Course) – I’m pretty sure everyone with a three-year-old feels like they need a remedial course in parenting. So that is what I’m calling this one, with specific books to read by specific months of this year.
Emotional Management – I’m realizing that what I’ve thought of as “good self-control” all my life was actually my ability to control my environment so that I avoided the things that annoy me. Well, with the aforementioned three-year-old, I have come to the conclusion that I can no longer avoid the things that annoy me: I need actual REAL self-control. This course, too, involves reading several books by several due dates.
Personal Management – And I also need to get better at controlling my increasingly chaotic environment. The more kids I have, the less feasible “going with the flow” is becoming. We need some structure up in here. Thus, I’m reading books about managing my own to-do list as well as structuring the kids’ time. If I were to phrase this as a New Year’s Resolution, it would be “better at self-discipline.”
Creative Writing: Revision – My Creative Writing course last year (with the help of NaNoWriMo) led to the near-completion of a draft of a novel I’m very excited about—Smash Bros. Ultimate notwithstanding. This year my writing course will focus on revision: reading one book on crafting tight plots, and a due date for having this thing ready for beta readers.
Pedagogy in the Home – This is basically reading some books on homeschooling, with a due date to select kindergarten curriculum by May. I will then, of course, need to implement that curriculum in the fall (WHAT?).
C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien: Continuing Education – One of my greatest adult joys is learning more about the Inklings. I have dozens of unread books on my shelf about these men, and another co-op class to teach about them in the fall. In order to actually read some of these dozens of books, I’ve assigned myself four, again with specific due dates.
I tell you this 1) to hold myself accountable and 2) in hopes that it might help some other academically-oriented people like me find this fun approach to New Year’s Resolution.
Happy New Year, and Godspeed!