How the Apprenticeship Works

If completed in full, the CiRCE Apprenticeship is a three-year program. In the spring of the first year, apprentices decide whether to continue for an additional two years as journeymen. Journeymen help mentor and assess first-year apprentices. Upon successful completion of the program, journeymen become CiRCE Certified Classical Teachers.

To receive certification, apprentices must do the following: 

  • Attend six retreats (one summer and one winter each year)
  • Teach lessons at the retreats from the Lost Tools of Writing
  • Teach lessons at home from the Lost Tools of Writing
  • Attend two webinars each month, September through May
  • Complete requisite assigned writing assignments
  • Implement mimetic instruction at home or in the classroom
  • Read all assigned literature
  • Pass biannual evaluations
  • Mentor a first-year apprentice
  • Prepare and teach an original mimetic lesson at a retreat 
  • Lead a Socratic discussion
  • Fulfill all payment obligations

Head mentors assess apprentices on their participation, teaching, and writing. In December and May they offer individual evaluations, providing specific feedback with suggestions for improvement. 


The CiRCE Apprenticeship group is made up of regional groups: three groups based in North Carolina (led by Matthew Bianco, Buck Holler, and Heather Shirley), a group based in Houston, Texas (led by Renee Mathis), a group based in Denver, Colorado (led by Andrea Lipinski), a group based in Ohio (led by Molly Rychener), and a Mid-Atlantic group that gathers in New Hampshire, Maryland, and Pennsylvania (led by Christine Mooradian).

Each group launches its year via a week-long retreat in late July or early August. During the day, the first, second, and third-year apprentices gather for teachings, reading, and discussions with one another and their head mentor, who guides the literary and pedagogic terrain the group will traverse. During the retreat the apprentices teach lessons and observe other apprentices’ lessons. In the evenings, apprentices are invited to gather at local restaurants to share meals and form friendships. On the last evening of the retreat, each group hosts a banquet to celebrate what the group has accomplished that week and where they are headed in the months to come. 

During the school cycle the apprenticeship thrives via weekly gatherings and at-home assignments. Each week apprentices gather online (or over a phone). And during once-a-month webinars, first-year apprentices convene with their head mentor. Second and third-year apprentices gather in a separate monthly webinar with the head mentor. A third monthly meeting for all apprentices focuses on a literature discussion. A fourth monthly meeting is planned for first-year apprentices to engage with a second or third-year apprentice; this time allows a graduating apprentice to practice skills of mentorship while a first-year apprentice is learning the new program. At home apprentices are reading, writing, and teaching The Lost Tools of Writing. Monthly webinars and assignments provide an opportunity to discuss Great Books, assess writing, and review teaching.

In February apprentices gather for a second 4-day retreat that, once again, culminates in a celebratory banquet. At this retreat apprentices will observe, model, and assess each other’s teaching; they will also discuss the term’s literature, take walks, enjoy meals, and make friends. In both late December and late May, apprentices have a personal review over the phone with their head mentor. This time is for accountability, assessment, encouragement, and reflection.

Head mentors provide a syllabus; apprentices complete their assignments and submit notice through Canvas, our online classroom resource. Assignments include reading Great Books, teaching the Lost Tools of Writing weekly, attending webinars, and participating in our online discussion community. Along the way the head mentor guides the apprentices through the work of authors like of Homer, Plato, Shakespeare, Hicks, Berry, and Lewis.