Explore the Foundations of Classical Education with a Dynamic Online Community

A one-year program, the CiRCE Atrium program explores the foundations of Christian classical education with online classes and discussions. The atrium now features five courses. Participants can choose any one course or sign up for multiple courses! Courses include Heidi White on classical pedagogy, classical rhetoric with Andrew Kern, Plato's Republic with Matthew Bianco, and The Divine Comedy or The Iliad with Wes Callihan.

Through exclusive live webinars (two to three each month) and an online discussion forum, the Atrium offers a forum for contemplation and collaboration: a place to linger (and take pleasure) in the depths of the Christian classical tradition alongside like minded fellow educators. We provide the digital platform; you bring the desire for wisdom and virtue. Together we make the community.  

Participants can expect to grow in knowledge of classical education throughout the year, be inspired and energized by peer discussion and collaboration, and understand fundamentals of Christian classical education.

* The Atrium works in partnership with the CiRCE Apprenticeship Program and thus is especially well-suited for those who are preparing to enter the Apprenticeship. Participants who complete one year in the Atrium are eligible to receive a $250 credit toward Apprenticeship tuition.

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Deepen Your Understanding of Classical Education

Contemplate the essential elements and crucial truths at the heart of Christian classical education by joining one of our five groups.


Read about Matthew's Class

"Having been educated in this way, he will welcome the reason when it comes and recognize it easily because of its kinship to himself" (Republic, III.402a).

Plato's Republic is a book on education. And, depending on how you read it, you can see it as a manual for education that leads to a just city. Or, you can see it as a manual for education that leads to a just soul. Or, you may just be able to see it as a manual for education that leads to just souls, souls that live in a city that itself will be just as a result. And so, we find that the answer to the age old debate, whether the Republic is a book on how to organize a city or how to train the soul, is, in fact, yes.

What We Will Do

In this brand new Atrium offering, CiRCE Head Mentor Matt Bianco will lead us through a deep dive and close read of Plato's most influential dialogue, the Republic. We will discover what Plato has to offer about human nature, proper education, the just ordering of the soul, and the just ordering of the city. We will wrestle with ideas and arguments that have both haunted and inspired civilizations for centuries, millennia even. 

We will consider not only how human nature affects the way we educate, but what that means for what we should teach (the content of education, what we often think of as the curriculum), how we should teach (the mode of education, what we often think of as pedagogy or teaching methods), when we should teach (the stages of education), and when we shouldn't teach (the assessment of education). 

How We Will Do It

To really ensure we get to that deep dive and close read, we will spend two meetings on most of the books. We will read and discuss them from two different perspectives: the philosophical (what is Plato/Socrates saying in this book) and the dramatic (how is he saying it). For each book of this magnificent work is simultaneously a philosophical discussion and a play. The characters not only say important things, but they say them while behaving certain ways and responding to other behaviors in a way that is itself a clue to how we should understand the text. 

Who Should Do It

If you are a homeschooling parent or a brick-and-mortar school teacher that is teaching or will be teaching Plato's Republic, this is the perfect course for you. If you are the kind of person that just loves philosophy or the ancient world or Socrates and Plato, then this is the perfect course for you. If you are completely new to the ancients or philosophy or theology and just know that Plato and his Republic are important but don't know why, then this is the perfect course for you. If you're not sure why you are reading this description right now, then this is the perfect course for you.

Bonus

CiRCE Atrium courses do not usually include a writing component, but this one will. It is bonus material, so it is in no way a requirement for you to participate in the program. The writing program will be practicing the common topic of Definition and writing definition essays. By doing this, we will get to learn how to define terms better generally, but we will also learn to define the terms the Socrates himself is using, that we might better understand them.

The Definition Essay writing component is optional. The essays can be submitted, however, and writers will receive feedback from Atrium leader, Matt Bianco.

Join us in the 2021-2022 Atrium year, and together we can try to understand what being educated "in this way" means so that we too can welcome the truth when it comes.

His class will meet on the first and third Tuesdays from 4-5:30 ET (with some shifts for travel needs or holidays, TBD)

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Read About Andrew's Class

Atrium host and discussion leader Andrew Kern claims that rhetoric understood in a Christian way is distinctly human, that it carries a uniquely Christian responsibility, and even that it is the key to the simplicity of the classical curriculum. He claims that the loss of rhetoric relates to our shrinking understanding of who Christ is, which causes a diminished understanding of how learning and life relate to Him. He also argues that you are already always engaged in acts of rhetoric, so it is only a question of how well you are using it. 

In this Atrium class we will explore what rhetoric is, the unique relationship of rhetoric to Chrisitianity, and how Christendom has suffered from its neglect. Indeed, we will discuss why any community (from a family to a school to a nation-state) suffers when it neglects rhetoric.  

We will consider why rhetoric is numbered among the liberal arts, why we would not need any self-help books if we just mastered the seven liberal arts, and why rhetoric is the art that governs the other six. 

Using The Lost Tools of Writing, Levels One through Three, and Homer’s Iliad, the greatest and most practical book ever written on rhetoric, we will learn some of the many ways we all already use rhetoric and how we can use it better to honor both God and our neighbors.  

Some things we’ll discuss include, 

  • The Two Rhetorics: Divine and diabolical

  • The universality of rhetoric: ways we use rhetoric - and always will

  • The simplicity of rhetoric: How it orders thought and simplifies the curriculum

  • The logo-centricity of rhetoric: How it makes manifest the glory of Christ the Logos

  • How a diminished Christ leads to a shrunken rhetoric 

  • The relationship of rhetoric to academics 

  • The infinitely more important relationship of rhetoric to life 

  • How our liberties depend on rhetoric 

  • How rhetoric helps us perceive truth

  • How rhetoric helps us build harmony in our communities

  • The unique importance of rhetoric to people who grow up in socially disadvantaged situations

  • How The Lost Tools of Writing trains students in rhetoric by beginning with the simplest elements in level one and then telescoping them through levels two and three in order to refine the writer/rhetorician’s mastery of each skill

  • Rhetoric as a spiritual discipline

Rhetoric, Andrew Kern argues, is not “the art of persuasion,” though it is bound up with decision making. Indeed, we humans are all always making decisions; it is our nature to do so. It follows that it is from our nature as humans and our place in the world that the tools of rhetoric arise. And that is why rhetoric is so important, because, Kern argues, rhetoric is the art of decision making in community and its purpose is threefold: to establish and maintain harmony in the community, to set the members of the community free, and to enable them to perceive truth.

Do you share this dream for language? Do you find these ideas far-fetched? Come in and join the conversation! Learn why Kern contends that rhetoric is the one art to rule them all.

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Read about Heidi's Class

Course Description:

Considered by many to be the seminal text of the Christian classical education renewal, Norms and Nobility by Dr. David Hicks provides an essential framework for the theory and practice of classical education. In this Atrium course, we will read, contemplate, and discuss the rich intellectual and practical content of Norms and Nobility chapter by chapter over the course of a school year.


Topics include:

  • What is a Christian classical education?
  • What does a Christian classical education offer to students and teachers in a fragmenting modern world?
  • What is the proper role and training of a teacher?
  • What should we read and teach in our homes and classrooms?
  • How should Christians encounter the pagan tradition?
  • What is the Christian classical approach to science and technology?
  • How do we practice Christian classical education in our homes and classrooms?

Along with the profound content of the text, students will also experience a classical education for themselves. Instructor Heidi White will model classical teaching methodology such as Socratic discussion and mimetic instruction in order to provide an immersive experience in classical pedagogy.

Upon completion of the course, students will have gained a deeper, richer understanding and experience of Christian classical education that will provide lifelong guidance in future vocational endeavors and personal development.


Course Details:

1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month, beginning Tuesday, September 7, 2021

8 - 9:30pm EST

Class will be recorded

Homework: reading 1-2 chapters per month (approximately 10-15 pages each)


Instructor Information:

Heidi White, M.A., is a teacher, editor, podcaster, homeschooling mother, and author. She teaches Upper School Humanities at St. Hild School in Colorado Springs. She is the Managing Editor of FORMA Journal and an Atrium instructor at the Circe Institute. She is a weekly podcast contributor on fiction, poetry, and Shakespeare at Close Reads and the Circe Podcast Network. She serves on the Academic Advisory Board for the Classical Learning Test. She writes fiction, poetry, and essays, and she speaks about literature, education, and the Christian imagination. She lives in Black Forest, Colorado with her husband and children.

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Read About Wes' Class

HOMER'S ILIAD

The Iliad is the true beginning of imaginative literature in western civilization and remains unsurpassed in the power of its vision and storytelling. Originating many centuries before Christ and inexpressibly influential on the ancient Greek world, it was enthusiastically embraced by the new Christian world – the Christians of the first centuries taught it as part of the Christian story so effectively that the last pagan emperor, Julian “the Apostate” forbid Christians from using it – and has had an incalculable influence on western culture ever since. In western civilization it has always been an essential element of a classical, humane, liberal education. For most of the history of western civilization, to call oneself educated without having read the Iliad was to invite scorn.

In this course we will study the Iliad closely, looking at the structure and patterns of the story, its methods of storytelling, its unique conventions which set the tradition for epic poems ever after, its themes, and its view of reality – what is man's purpose? What is our relationship to Transcendence? What is honor and glory, and what is the meaning of violence and suffering, and what is the nature of death and what comes after? We will briefly survey theories of its origin, development, and historicity (was there a real Trojan War? Did Achilleus, Agamemnon, Odysseus really exist? Were the gods real?) We will ponder the effect and power of words (rhetoric) in the speeches, something that has drawn particular notice throughout history. We will glance at the influence of the poem on many of the great figures of western civilization, from Alexander the Great to C. S. Lewis. We will see how similar and how different its answers to the above questions are to the historic Christian ones, and we will consider how the Iliad helps us understand more fully what one terrible fundamental need the gospel of the Incarnate God answers.

Who the class is for: This course is for everyone who wants to become familiar with this very great poem for their own benefit, but will also be helpful for anyone who is, or is considering, teaching it.

Required texts: The required books will be 1) the Callihan edition of the Iliad (available from Roman Road Press by late summer 2021); 2) any other translation of the Iliad (there are many translations available free online); 3) The Story of the Iliad, by E. T. Owen (4) War and the Iliad, by Simone Weil and Rachel Bespaloff (New York Review of Books).

Days and times: The class will meet on the first and third Tuesdays of every month, beginning on September 7, from 7:00-8:45pm Eastern time (with a short break in the middle of each class), with of course occasional adjustments for holidays and travel. There will be eighteen sessions total.

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