Category Archives: General Info

Core Beliefs

In a fragmented world, people cry out for connection and meaning. In schools and colleges where test scores are king, students cry out for connected, meaningful learning. The Tres Columnae Project is building a joyful, connected community around the fascinating subject of the ancient Romans – their language, customs, history, and the amazing influence they had on so many cultures and societies. You’ll meet some fictional residents of the Roman city of Herculaneum, escape with them when their home is destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and follow – and even create – their further adventures in places as diverse as Roman Germany, Judea, Egypt, Spain, and Rome itself.

Unlike a conventional, school-based Latin course, Tres Columnae is designed for deep learning, not shallow “coverage.” You decide how much – or how little – time you want to spend on each lesson. You decide how quickly – or how slowly – you want to progress. You decide if you want to explore things that seem especially interesting or valuable to you.

Unlike a typical language textbook, Tres Columnae lets you choose the style of learning that works best for you. Some learners prefer an “inductive” approach, where you figure out patterns for yourself, then confirm your understanding and apply what you have learned. Others prefer a “deductive” approach, where the pattern is explained for you. A textbook – or a teacher in a classroom – typically makes that decision for you, and that decision may not work with the way you learn best. But with Tres Columnae, you can choose the approach that works best for you – and you can try out both approaches, or a combination, any time you want. Not only are you in control of your learning, but you are actually learning about how you learn best … and that will help you tremendously, both now and in the future. You can even try out your “less-preferred” or “less-dominant” learning approach any time you want to. Over time, you’ll develop the skills and confidence to do well in any type of learning environment.

Joyful Learning Community

For just over 100 years, most American schools (and schools throughout the world) have been designed according to a system called the “factory model,” which was built on the work of an industrial “efficiency” expert named Frederick Taylor. Taylor’s idea – which was a good one in the late 1800’s – was that standardized procedures would make a factory more efficient, and more efficient factories would be able to produce better-quality products at a lower price. His work led directly to the assembly lines that built American and European prosperity in the 1920’s and beyond. Unfortunately, it also contributed to the declines in productivity and the quality of manufactured goods in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and beyond. In the quest for “efficiency” and “standardization,” it was easy to forget that the workers were different from the equipment they operated! As workers were treated more and more like machines, it was easy for them to stop caring about the products they made – after all, no one seemed to care about them! So quality declined, complaints grew, and many people stopped buying American-made products.

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Humans are hard-wired to learn, and to enjoy learning new things. But for many students even in the upper-elementary grades, joy is notably absent from the “work” of their classrooms and schools. At Tres Columnae, we remove the time pressure and the quest for immediate perfection that characterize many schools, both in the United States and in other parts of the world. We think that time pressure and excessive perfectionism create a pervasive atmosphere of apathy or anxiety. Instead, we give you, the learner, opportunities to

  • go at your own pace;
  • move more quickly through things that seem easier to you;
  • move more slowly, and get extra help, with things that are more difficult for you;
  • choose the stories you want to read, the exercises you want to complete, and the explanations you need to read – with some guidance from your teacher, if you are in a school-based setting; and even
  • create your own stories, images, audio, video, exercises, explanations, and other learning materials … and share them with your fellow learners.


Authentic, lasting learning requires a meaningful context, and it happens best in the company of other learners. Yet in too many schools around the world, “learning” consists of a list of isolated facts or disconnected skills, and students are required to work in isolation or in poorly structured “group work” tasks where very few take an active role. At Tres Columnae, we reject this approach. Continue reading


At Tres Columnae, we are an international community of learners, with subscribers from the United States, the UK, and countries from Australia to Mauritius! But a Community is more than just a group of people!

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Who We Are

As a subscriber or participant in the Tres Columnae Project, you are a very important member of the team.  We actualy think you’re the most important part of the team!  After all, without you, where would we be?

But you may want to know something about the people “behind the scenes.”  We are

  • Justin M. Schwamm, Jr., long-time high school Latin teacher in North Carolina (1992-2014) and around the world by the power of the Internet (2014-present), who had the original idea for Tres Columnae and wrote most of the “core” stories.
  • Dr. Ann Martin, who has taught Latin (and many other things) in the United States and the UK, who made it all happen, and whose voice you can hear in most of the “core” audio.
  • Lucy Martin, whose illustrations bring our characters to life
  • Members of the “Latin Family” at schools where Mr. Schwamm and Dr. Martin have taught, whose stories and contributions you will find as you explore the site

Would you like to join the Tres Columnae Team?

Dramatis Personae

Every compelling story needs interesting characters!  And since we are building the story together as Tres Columnae Project members and subscribers, we want to make sure that there are lots and lots of interesting characters to work with.  The “core” stories (the ones mostly created by Mr. Schwamm and Dr. Martin) focus on the adventures of five Roman families, including their servants, pets, and some other animals.

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As the stories begin in Lectiō Prīma, we find ourselves in the small Roman city of Herculaneum in the year AUC DCCCXXIII (823 years after the founding of Rome, according to the Romans, or what we would call A.D. 70 or 70 C.E.).

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