TIFTON — Parents will soon have another education option for Tift County students when Providence School of Tifton opens its doors.
Head of School Victoria Harris said that enrollment has opened and the school is taking applications for students for its first school year in fall 2020.
Providence School calls itself a Classical Christian school, an educational model which, according to the Association of Classical Christian Schools’ website, “establishes a biblical worldview (called Paideia) by incorporating ancient methods of student development. It includes the cultivation of the seven Christian virtues, training student reasoning through the Trivium (Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric), and interacting with the historical Great Books.”
Providence is one of the rapidly expanding ACCS school group and is on track to receive accreditation from the ACCS, according to Harris.
“We’re not doing this from scratch,” Harris said. “We have three different schools mentoring us (from) all around the southeastern United States.”
Harris said the education system is based upon children’s neurological development and teaches them “how to think, not what to think.”
“It’s a whole entire approach to education that is different than what we’re used to,” she said. “Over the past 100 years, education has shifted and that’s why this seems so foreign to us, but for the 2,000 years before that, this is how everyone was educated.”
Harris said that education has shifted from developing the entire person to developing a product that can fulfill a job.
“Providence is focused on shaping the entire person, so they become 40, 50 and 60 year old men and women that are successful in anything they do rather than being trained to be prepared for college or a specific career doing a specific thing. The way we train them, they have the ability to think critically. They can do anything in the world that God calls them to do because they’re taught how to think rather than what to think about a topic.”
Harris said that the seeds to grow Providence had been in Tifton for at least 20 years.
“Various people have come to me since I started this and have said ‘We were working on this, we wanted this,’” she said.
Harris herself was introduced to the concept of Classical Christian education when she was looking for something that would be a good fit for one of her children, who has special needs.
“We started him in the public school here with some wonderful teachers,” she said, but because of the large gap in age and cognitive ability there was not a place that was really appropriate for him.
Harris began to homeschool him to try and help him catch up and was introduced to the education system.
“It’s a different type of education that produces a different type of graduate,” she said. “It’s a type of education that produces graduates who think and who shape culture rather than being shaped by culture. When I started learning how it did that is when I realized this was exactly what I want for my family.”
Harris said that she and other like-minded parents got together and started Providence School to bring Classical Christian education to Tift County.
“Providence focuses on shaping the entire person rather than just teaching them academics,” she said. “Academics are there, but it focuses on shaping the affections of our students. For example, good poetry, good music and what classifies that as good. We’re a Christian school, and what God deems is true, good and beautiful, set out in the Scriptures, is what we want to instill in our students.
“It’s also about the formation of their soul. There’s something we tell parents, which is we instill and teach children to have strong minds, soft hearts and rich souls.”
The school will start off accepting students for junior kindergarten (pre-K) through sixth grade for the first year, and plan on adding one grade per year after this year until they have pre-K through 12th grade.
The school is planning on starting off with approximately 50 students. Students will be able to participate in athletics and clubs as well as creative and musical arts.
“The arts, including art itself, all forms of the creative arts and musical arts, is extremely important,” Harris said. “It’s a requirement, not an elective, for all students.”
Harris said that their applicant pool is very diverse and they are proud of that.
“One great thing is that from the beginning our goal with Providence has been to not be exclusive,” Harris said. “We already have scholarship money available and our tuition is based on a flexible tuition plan. What that means is that you pay what you can afford. It’s really good because there are so many families that want more options for education here in Tift County, and even in some of the surrounding counties, but finances make that very difficult. We don’t want that to be an issue. We want to be able to partner with families that are like-minded and see our vision and mission and say, ‘That’s what I want for my child.’”
The school is part of the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship program, which allows individuals, families and businesses to redirect the money they owe the state of Georgia to the school.
“In essence, it’s a prepayment of their taxes,” Harris said. “We use the Golden Dome Scholarship Fund. They accept the prepayment on our behalf; the individual, family or business gets a dollar for dollar tax credit. It’s a way for our community to partner with families to give families another option for education.”
Harris also said they have a donor who has agreed to match dollar for dollar up to $50,000 to meet the school’s goal of $150,000, which would fund 50 half-scholarships.
“It helps keep our mission focused on not restricting this to the wealthiest families in Tifton, because that’s not our goal,” Harris said.
Harris said that the school is community oriented and part of the children’s education involves community service and taking field trips.
“Learning is very hands on,” she said. “There’s a lot of experiencing that happens. They don’t just sit and listen and complete papers. They memorize it, they practice it, they see it come into the classroom, they take it out into the world, and that’s the whole point. This world is not about us. It’s not about what I can get and what I can do, it’s about how I can take what I know and what I’ve learned and where the Lord has put me and take it out into the community and spread that forward. That’s the goal. We want our children to see that, to experience it and to graduate ready and willing to do that.”
Harris said that the teachers are trained through the ACCS and receive not only education training but also cognitive development training and trauma training.
Harris said the school is planning events to introduce the community to Providence.
An informational event is planned for Jan. 21 at 5:30 p.m. An event aimed at partnering with the community to provide options for local families through the Georgia Dome Scholarship Fund is set for Jan. 23 at noon. Those interested in attending either may RSVP to email@example.com or 229-445-8190.
For more information, to enroll or to donate visit the school’s website at https://providencetift.org. More information can be obtained by contacting Harris directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 229-445-8180.