Intimate familiarity with the night sky above us was once everyone’s possession and was part of the pleasant and necessary furniture of everyone’s mind – herdsmen, sailors, travelers, housewives, poets, children. Everyone knew the heavens and the stories told in them. Everyone knew the phases of the moon. Astronomy was intimately connected to and shows up in all human arts including poetry, philosophy, politics, religion, and exploration. In the middle ages, astronomy was considered to be one of the seven liberal arts, not a technical science or path to a career, because all the arts of the Quadrivium, arithmetic (number), geometry (number in space), and music (number in time), were seen as culminating in astronomy (number in space and time) and in its ability to orient man-the-microcosm to the created cosmos. Astronomy helped us to explain and understand ourselves.

This was all destroyed in the modern world by the demise of the seven liberal arts in education… and the invention of electric lighting. For many people the sky is now unknown territory, but that’s not the fault of Thomas Edison; it’s the fault of modernity’s refusal to accept the glorious inheritance of our cultural past, which includes the knowledge of the heavens.

Schola’s Classical Astronomy is a practical, observational attempt to remedy this. We’ll learn to identify and delight in the planets, principal stars, and constellations of the whole sky for every month of the year and learn some of the historical and literary connections – where stars and constellations show up in poetry and other literature, including the myths behind them as well as Biblical connections and use in the Bible and in Church history. We’ll learn to find directions and time by the stars, make sundials, and have regular star-gazing assignments. We’ll briefly survey ancient, medieval, and modern astronomy and cosmology, and we’ll discuss the history of calendars and clocks, which are grounded in the movement of the heavens.

This is naked-eye, everyman, observational, literary, and historical astronomy. Its aim is knowledge of the night sky and how that knowledge has influenced Old Western Culture (to use C. S. Lewis’s phrase). It is not modern scientific astronomy, as valuable as that is. Students should later take advantage of the many good classes available live and online both, that cover the modern science of astronomy – one Schola Astronomy alumna has gone on to become an astrophysicist (a comet expert at NASA’s Huntsville, Alabama, facility). But many become literature teachers who have applied the knowledge of the heavens to helping students understand Vergil, Dante, and Milton. And most have or will become homeschool moms and dads who want to tell their children what those things in the night sky are that you see when out camping, and connect their children to scores of generations that have loved the stars because they got to know their names and stories. The real point of this course is to learn to find your way comfortably around the night sky and connect that knowledge with history and literature from Homer to C. S. Lewis.

I stayed home today to get some things done, and to have some alone time. While reading Quintilian on The Orator’s Education, I came to this: “Again, grammatice cannot be complete without music, because it has to discuss metre and rhythm; nor can it understand the poets without a knowledge of astronomy, since( to mention nothing else) they so often use the risings and settings of constellations as indications of time”;… So true, and this is one reason why I was confused in The Divine Comedy;-)

— savvy Schola mom

From astronomy we find the east, west, south, and north, as well as the theory of the heavens, the equinox, solstice, and courses of the stars. If one has no knowledge of these matters, he will not be able to have any comprehension of [other important arts].

— ancient architect (Vitruvius)

Without this science it is impossible to understand not only physics, but also geography and a great part of history.

— Reformation educator (John Comenius)

This is a one-semester course, meeting for fifteen weeks total. To see days and times, visit the “Online Tutorials” page. A syllabus page with weekly subjects to be covered will be posted, with dates of holidays.

Prerequisites: The course is best suited to students fifteen years old and up, and especially those who have read some ancient and medieval literature, as these students will get more out of the class, but these are not strict requirements. Adults are welcome! No advanced math is involved, although some basic math is. No equipment except the textbooks is required, although some inexpensive items (binoculars, red map lights, sky atlases, etc.) will be recommended during the course for those who are interested in further exploration.

Homework load: very light (about half an hour of reading per week and some night-time observation assignments).

Cost: see Internet Tutorials page (you can subscribe to just receive the recordings for half the tuition).

A minimum number of registrants is needed for this class to launch.

Contact Schola for further information.