The meaning of pi & ‘je voudrais du fromage’: my learning goals in 2014

Someone asked me during our (ridiculously fun) live Facebook chat the other day about my 2014 goals . I laughed, because I’ve barely thought about 2014 goals, to be honest. What with book release on its way followed by travels for the next few months, I almost feel like a regular, good old-fashioned regular life won’t greet me until about April.

So because those Facebook chats move so quickly, I tapped out the short, easy answer of, “I don’t know, but I’m thinking about it.” Then later, as I was heading off to bed, I realized—I totally have goals this year. They’re just sorta clamoring around in my head, and I need to get them on paper.

I recently read Leadership Education, which encourages parents to inspire children on their educational journey by continually moving forward on their own educational path. To be a lifelong learner, in other words—especially right in front of your own children, who learn best through modeling.

I nearly highlighted entire chapters of that book, parts of it resonated with me so deeply, but the stuff I loved  most was this significance of being a lifelong learner. When I focus on my own education, and not just my kids’, I’m inviting them along for the ride when they see me in continual pursuit of knowledge.

I knew this already, I did. I’ve written posts about it. There’s stuff about it in my book. Lifelong learning—big fan. But for some reason, it was this book read over the holidays that kicked my tail into high gear.

And so, yes, Virginia, I have 2014 goals. And here they are, all in the name of lifelong learning.

1. Read more classics.

For someone with a degree in English, I admittedly have a sad lack of classics under my belt. And so? I’m going to finally tackle some, with a goal to make a habit out of including them in my usual repertoire. With tons available for free on my Kindle, I have no excuse.

Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
Photo source

At the top of my 2014 list are Walden, David Copperfield, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Les Misérables. (I feel shame for even publicly admitting I’ve never read them.)

2. Learn French.

Last summer I watched this TED talk and immediately fell in love with the app and website Duolingo. It’s how my daughter is teaching herself Spanish, and while I did the first two lessons in French, I haven’t made more time to pursue it. This year, it’s my goal to get through the first level of French.

3. Flex my math muscles.

I’ve been woefully aware of my unimpressive math skills (and accompanying attitude about the subject), and I’d like to get better. I’ll join my kids in watching some Khan Academy, I’ve had the book Math For Grownups for quite awhile so I’ll finally crack it open, and I want to work on my times tables several times a week (really). I love Wraps-Ups for my kids, so I might as well use them, too.

4. Be back to running three miles at a time. And get stronger.

I tore my ACL almost a year ago (February 9, 2013, to be exact), and it was followed by surgery a month later,  three months of physical therapy, and avid warnings to be reeeeeeally careful for the next year. And no yoga or skiing for two years.


But I’m ready to get back to running. I miss it. So I’m starting back at it, slowly and surely. I want to teach my body that it can run again, even after a knee injury (really slowly and safely, of course). And in general, I’d like to get stronger over the nine months in particular, as we prep for our family’s Big Trip. We’ll be doing lots of backpack carrying and walking out there in the wide world.

(Lifelong learning? You bet. I’m teaching my body to listen to my brain.)

5. Have a massive yard/Craigslist/whatever sale.

You’d be mistaken if you thought writing weekly for six years about living simply means having absolutely no clutter buildup whatsoever. One look in our garage, and you’d know it’s not true. So later this spring, I plan to purge, purge, purge once more, and haul a good chunk of stuff away via yard sale (or Craigslist, or wherever).

We’re pretty decent at not amassing too much stuff, but that doesn’t keep us completely immune from it. This, too, falls in my “lifelong learning” category because I’m genuinely more at ease, I sleep better, and I’m less prone to depression when my home has less stuff within its walls—these are all conduits to my being more alert, better able to learn, and escaping survival mode.

So yep—these are my personal learning goals for 2014. I’ve also got a ridiculously long reading list as well, so we’ll see how I tackle that, but that’s an ongoing, never-ending deal with my life. I’ll add them to the reading list if I can recommend them (I’ve got quite a few from last year to add, too).

In the meantime, I’ll be that lady in her late thirties practicing her times tables at the stoplights.

How about you—what are you eager to learn this year? Or maybe you can admit to a classic you haven’t yet read. C’mon—you know of a few.

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Yeah, I’ll be honest, the one classic I’ve read of the ones you’ve listed is “Walden”. I have visited Walden Pond and took a picture of that very sign which is what inspired me to read the book, instead of just pretending like I’ve read the book.

    The “Leadership Education” book is another one I haven’t read, but it sounds really interesting. One of my life priorities is to be a lifelong learner, and I can totally see how modeling it is the best way to teach our children the love of learning.

  2. Oh yes, I definitely have a lot of goals this year…probably too many…you can read about them here

    One that I am really working towards is reading 100 books this year. I am trying to read non-fiction with fiction this year though. It is easy for me to plow through a novel, or get lost in some pretend story, but reading non-fiction takes a little longer for me, I spend a bit more time questioning myself, which I think is a good thing!

    I have been meaning to read Walden for a very long time, but haven’t quite gotten there yet, perhaps this is the year! I am also reading through all of Jane Austen’s books with a book club this year, two of which I haven’t read before.

  3. Oddly enough I’ve decided to not make any plans for 2014 other than the Purge!
    There was this whole thing last year about choosing a word…. (I’m never on time with the fashion) so I chose a word this year, and it’s Simplify. And to do that I have to not make plans.

  4. I’ve really been enjoying Duolingo. I took French in high school, so it has been a great way to reteach myself things that I forgot way too long ago.

    I always mean to read more classics too. Les Miserables is an amazing story. I read it in high school. That being said, it does get wordy at some points. In the copy I read, there were 100 pages describing the Paris sewer system. Honestly, you can skip that section, and I’m not the kind of person who says that about books. I don’t think there was anything particularly necessary in it.

    • Les Miserables is on my list to read, but the sheer volume is intimidating. I read that Hugo and other writers were paid by the word, which motivated them to be quite voluminous in their writing.

      I wonder if he would cut parts out if he had the chance to redo it? Anyway, it’s a wonderful story.

      • I am listening to Les Miserables on the Audible app. I got it over a year ago when the movie came out and have listened to it off and on, but I savor every word and love how he goes on and on about the Priest’s character contrasting it and comparing it, giving this fabulous background that the movies don’t. My other favorite this year has been Francis Scaeffer’s How Shall we then Live, which is also incredible. I probably would never have made it this far in either of them by reading tho, I love this app!

  5. Learning French is one of my big goals too. I started with DuoLingo and still use it but found that the Pimsleur CDs is more helpful for me with pronunciation and mastery. (Although it doesn’t teach you to read/spell the language. )

  6. My list is pretty lengthy, but for starters…

    I want to learn to make nutrition and fitness a lifestyle, and not just something to check off a list. For me, education is key to success in this area.

    I want to learn the art of hospitality and practice it in ways that are authentic and God-glorifying. I desperately need to grow in this area.

    And the classics? I’m WAY behind!

  7. Tsh, I could have written that same list. I just told a friend how embarrassed I am to have not read MOST of the classics on the list at And I minored in English.
    Also, I’ve been meaning to model learning in front of my kids by brushing up on my French skills.
    Clutter and consistent exercise seem to be always on the list but there is a plan in place this year!

  8. Oh, how I love this! I don’t have kids yet but as a teacher I’m always trying to remind my students that even though they look up to me (I am a music teacher) for my professional abilities, I am ALWAYS learning. It never stops. The curiosity to learn better and more actually just grows and grows. It’s the thing I want to leave behind the most–cultivate a love for learning. I love your specific goals, too! Especially reading more classics.

  9. I’ve never heard anyone else link clutter and depression together before but I know it really affects me and I’m being thoughtful about how to reduce it in my life (not just the physical stuff but other noise) with balancing my children’s need for their treasures.
    Also, I’ve never read Les Mis but I’ve always wanted to do. And Anna Karenina.

    And I’m going to go ahead and add Leadership Education to my to-read list, it sounds fabulous.

  10. I have an English degree too and my reading history is surprisingly skimpy in the classics department. Which books are you going to start with?

  11. This is going to sound pathetic, but I want to learn to sew. My girls are making pillows, and I have to send them to my HUSBAND for help. Shameful, I know. I also want to get a sewing machine (now I’m getting into the bigtime) and learn to make clothes and costumes.

  12. May your return to running be joyful and not frustrating! If you’re looking to read Gone With the Wind, I’m hosting a read along starting in April…

  13. I was an English major, too, and have read very few classics. I go in spurts…the last one hasn’t hit me in a few years. 🙂

    If you want to practice simple french while laughing really hard, check out British comedian Izzy Izzard’s French bit:

    Sarah M

  14. I’ve had Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Phantom of the Opera on my Kobo for about 18 months but haven’t gotten through them yet. I love to read but get stumped by the classics. Also have Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility but haven’t started either of them.
    Love Duolingo! Working on my French as well.

  15. Loving the List. I’m trying to keep up eating right and shedding the pregnancy puonds. So far, so good : )

  16. Wonderful goals all! I’m in the same boat with the classics, I keep seeing references to Thoreau everywhere lately so perhaps it’s a sign that I should try reading Waldn again. (never finished the first time).
    I’m also to rediscover the beauty and complexity of the English language by writing more. I just recently started a blog of my own and I’m hoping to finish at least one of the stories kicking around in my head.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Duolingo is awesome, isn’t it? I’ve got a good friend in the linguistics grad program at Carnegie Melon (where it was “birthed” lol) and he turned me onto it. I actually made a habit of working on my French five minutes every day and so far it’s working.

    Oh, and I’m with you on the never-ending-reading list!

  18. Love this! I’m taking an Intro to Human Physiology course on Coursera starting next week. I totally agree that it’s the best way to teach kiddos to be lifelong learners.

  19. I’m very impressed and I love your goals… but I can’t stop wondering how you fit all this in a day? Could you write another post on that?

    • Oh, I totally wouldn’t do all this in a day! I’m talking all year, so it’s fits and spurts, as I have time.

      But you aren’t the first person to ask me about my days, so perhaps another day-in-the-life post is due…

  20. I haven’t “set goals” or “picked a word” this year – instead I’m continuing what I started last year which is running all decisions thru the filter of “will this benefit or hurt my family”. For many years this stay-at-home-mom was never at home because I said yes to everything and everyone – thinking “this is what I’m supposed to do – I don’t work, so I can be the helper to everyone”. What I failed to realize was my “work” was my home and family, and by never being home I was failing them! So for 18 months now I’ve exited things, learnt to say no and use my “filter”. We are all so much happier for it.

  21. Curse you for adding to my list of books to read. Lifelong learning is one of our family values so I am keen to read Leadership Education.

    I’m also learning Spanish (I’ve been going to social classes for five years now), exercising regularly, and reading great stories. Our goals are so similar :-). I should declutter, too. Well I am. It’s just not specifically one of my goals.

  22. Oh, please read Les Miserables. It’s sort of a daunting book at first glance but it is so, so, worth it. I read it as a sophomore in high school after seeing the musical and I loved it. It’s one of those stories that really makes me think about redemption and forgiveness.

  23. Getting excited about reading more. Great blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

  24. I’m still working on my list! But I definitely want to read Walden… something I’ve always meant to read. Just used your link to download it to my ipad~ Thanks!

    I’ve been wanting to try Duolingo. Downloaded in on my phone, but haven’t started. Add that to my list.

    Decluttering~ definitely, starting with completing the clean out of the attic. I started it before the holidays and I have to finish it in the first quarter of the year ~ too hot up there after that.

    Also plan for going through ALL my clothes at the same time when I pack up the winter clothes. That’s always a good time to clear out things that haven’t been used or get worn out.

    I have several home repair projects to complete as well~ bathroom renovation, painting, ceiling repairs.

    I’m working at getting to a reasonable list that won’t overwhelm me!

  25. A lot of my goals this year are to help me with my lifelong learning, too. I’m having a monthly bake off at home and trying a new baking recipe each month, yesterday I made red velvet cupcakes! My classic reading list includes Pride & Prejudice, Love in the Time of Cholera and Don Quixote, but first I need to finish The Lord of the Rings.

    Tsh, you should save Les Miserables for your world tour and stop off in Guernsey (my home island) on your way to/from France or England. This is where Victor Hugo was exiled and wrote the book! You can even visit his home!

  26. Hi Tsh! What edition/version of Les Mis will you read? Thx!

  27. I’m an English major too and have read far too few classics. Last year I started working my way through NYTimes’ and BBC’s top 100 selections, and I get so excited every time I get to cross one off my list. Over half of my school years was spent overseas, so I didn’t get to read many of the classics that my peers did in school. But then I kind of like discovering them as an adult–I feel I can better understand the writer and the context of the story.

    And I’ll have to check out Duolingo–it sounds like the perfect way to keep up with my French. Thanks for recommending it!

  28. Dear Tsh, I’m one of your biggest fan and I landed on The Art of Simple (formerly Simple Mom) because I’m also passionate about simple living, minimalism, frugality. Thank you for all your helpful and interesting posts ! I’m French, living in France, Alsace, so… if you need some help to improve “la langue française”, don’t hesitate to ask 🙂 “Je voudrais du fromage” is an excellent beginning ! Good luck for you 2014 learning goals !

  29. I am trying to learn french this year too! we bought rosetta stone cause we hope to move to france around 2016/2017…so hopefully the first 3 levels by the end of this year when we visit and the other two by the end of 2015. Not too much time for other goals except that I am trying to learn to isolation dance! 🙂

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