GAP YEAR Curriculum

“The hallmark of a well-functioning mind is the ability to identify facts, analyze ideas, integrate knowledge & successfully translate principles into action.”

– Marsha Familaro Enright

Staff Noelle, Marsha & Liz


The Leap Year is a gap year program designed to help you successfully fulfill your deepest needs as a young adult so you can launch into a life of achievement and adventure.

We want to help you become capable of living as a free person:

  • Knowledgeable,
  • Confidently navigating life,
  • Capable of making independent judgments.

We draw from decades of experience in scientific research, Montessori education, classical studies, and real-world learning to create the optimal environment for you.

The following is a description of your readings and activities in the program. Most readings are selections from longer works. You will read a few complete works during the program. Your highly experienced tutors will attentively guide you, led by the program’s creator, Marsha Familaro Enright, with the help of other bright, creative, and enthusiastic staff members.

Element I - Fall Quarter Sept to Dec 2019

Drawing from great, classic books and important modern ones. Why do we think you should read these old books?

People have been finding answers to their life questions in these books across the ages because they have some of the best thinking. We’ll show you how you can use them to make your life better. The topics we’ll cover are as follows:

What is Enlightenment? Raising your self-awareness and control of your mind with readings from Plato’s 2400 year old Meno to Immanuel Kant’s 17th Century essay, and Ayn Rand’s 20th century “Philosophy Who Needs It?”

How do you develop yourself? Lives of great humans, self-control, love, introspection, creating conditions of optimal experiences with readings from Plutarch and Epictetus to Frederick Douglass, Jose Ortega y Gasset, and Mihaly Ckiszentmihalyi.

How do you know? Shore up your exactness and confidence in what you know and don’t know so you can make excellent decisions for yourself. Deeply considering key works on knowledge and how to arrive at truth from Plato and Aristotle to Linji and Jaynes.

How do you live? If you’re going to successfully map out your life, you need to know what moral ideas and values influence you so you can decide which you want to live by. Learn about the most powerful and influential moral ideas in the world with readings from Homer’s The Illiad to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, St. Paul’s Epistles, Immanuel Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals, and Ayn Rand’s “The Objectivist Ethics.” Discover what they mean in action.

How do you live with others? Fundamentally different conceptions of society, its purposes and goals, compete in the world’s battle of ideas. Learn their principles and their effects on human life by comparing their visions in works from Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics to Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government , Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and John Rawl’s A Theory of Justice, discovering their effects on human history.

Activities to Enhance Your Learning

In addition to our regular daily seminars, you will enjoy:

  • Weekly individual meetings with your tutor about your questions, concerns, and progress.
  • Weekly discussions of longer works in a small group, such as Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics, Euclid’s Elements, Darwin’s Origin of Species, or Hawley’s Executive Suite,
  • Instruction in writing based on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, from a professional Ad Man, Malachy Walsh; successful writers from Shakespeare to General Patton to the team for the TV show “Breaking Bad” learned their skills from The Rhetoric,
  • Experiences working on Improv comedy that will increase self-confidence, and social skills important in the work place.
  • Games to strengthen your reasoning and self-confidence which will help you be more persuasive and help you recognize when someone is making a manipulative or fallacious argument, in your personal life, at work, or in politics.
  • Convivial dinners with the other students, the tutors, and occasional guests of note from business, academia, the arts, the military, and other fields.

Element II - Winter Quarter, January to March, 2020

With  a small number of students and the aid of your tutors and other experienced adults, research and determine a real world problem you want to tackle in Chicago, the U.S., or abroad.

Leap Year tutors help you find accomplished professionals in the field of your problem. A few of them, below, from the left: Malachy Walsh, former Creative Director, J Walter Thompson Worldwide, James Kandrac, Founder and President, UCG Technologies, Marsha Familaro Enright, Educational Entrepreneur, Reena Kapoor, Product-Market Fit, R. Paul Drake, Henry S, Carhart Collegiate Professor of Space Sciences, University of Michigan, Karen Brienzo, President, Jack Denst Designs, and Dan Curran, Sydan Investments and the Chicago Stock Exchange.

Professionals and tutors will help mentor your group in:

  • How to go about analyzing the problem and arriving at a solution
  • What research you need to do
  • How to create a product to implement your solution
  • How to create a presentation of your choice (speech, movie, dramatization–limited only by your problem, talents, creativity, and time)

At the end of quarter, your group will rendezvous with the rest of the class in Chicago, to present the solution to the other groups, mentors, and invited guests.

Activities to Enhance Your Learning

  • Weekly in person or online individual meetings with your tutor about your questions, concerns, and progress.
  • Weekly small group tutorial on a book you’ve chosen for discussion.
  • Partake in the riches of Chicago’s cultural scene, whether a comedy show, outdoor concert, or lakefront athletic event.

Element III - Spring Quarter, April to June, 2020

You will compare Karl Marx’s Wage, Labor and Capital and Communist Manifesto to the ideas of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Frederic Bastiat’s The Law, Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom and others. We will combine this with a deep study of selections from Ludwig von Mises Human Action.

Living in a Market Society: Economics, Business, Entrepreneurship–Learn from Economics In One Lesson, From Zero to One: Notes On Startups And How To Build The Future, and about personal finance such as checking, budgeting, saving, compound interest, investing.

Living in a society of science and technology: Enhance your understanding of the fast-paced developments going on around you with discussions of the deep principles that shape them–Aristotle’s DeAnima to A Mind At Play: How Claude Shannon Invented The Information Age, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to Koestler’s The Act of Creation.

The Role of Art in a Successful Life (Painting, sculpture, music, literature, architecture): What is art? Why is it important to your life? How can you figure out whether a work is beneficial to you or not? Learn from David Hume On Taste, Friederich Schiller The Esthetic Education of Man, Louis Sullivan The Autobiography of an Idea, and more. You’ll learn from excursions to museums, plays, movies, concerts, and architecture viewings.

Your writing and your real-world-problem presentation will create a portfolio of accomplishments for you to use in your next step, whether applying to college, opening an art show, or whatever you choose to do.

Interested in learning more?

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