OXFORD, Ga. - The Providence Classical Christian School (PCCS), established in 2005, is located on the northern outskirts of Oxford. It is one of only 250 classical Christian schools in the world. This fall, a total of 125 to 130 pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students will be enrolled.
Patsy Hinton, the new headmaster, recently discussed her background, the school, and her thoughts for its future with The Covington News.
Hinton was born in Georgia. But her father was in the military so she grew up in Italy and England. She and her husband, now a critical care nurse at Piedmont Hospital, met in high school in England.
Returning to the United States for college, Hinton eventually earned a master’s degree in education with emphasis in curriculum and instruction at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Her career in education began in 1994; she initially worked as a teacher in an inner city public school. However, for the past 14 years she has worked in classical Christian education as a teacher, dean, and headmaster.
Her most recent previous appointment was that of headmaster at Bloomfield Christian School outside of Detroit, Michigan.
Regarding her move to Georgia and PCCS last month, Hinton said, “My family’s here and this is where we always knew we wanted to be at some point. God gave us a great opportunity.”
PCCS is a private, not-for-profit, educational organization. It is governed by a five-member board. It is independent, but a ministry of the non-denominational Crosspointe Church. PSSC is accredited in all 13 grades by the Georgia Accreditation Commission.
The faculty includes about 15 teachers who must have a bachelor’s degree and must be or become certified by the Association of Classical Christian Schools. Many have graduate degrees.
The classical Christian education offered at PCCS is unique in its goals, content, and teaching methods.
“I want folks to recognize that students are not only being prepared academically,” Hinton said. “We are really trying to help them understand what goodness, truth, and beauty means and what it looks like. It’s not merely about making sure they are prepared to get a job. They will be prepared, they will get good jobs. But that is not the end goal. Our end goal is actually bigger than that.”
Hinton added that the school is called on to help parents educate students as disciples, scholars, and citizens. “God gives a responsibility to educate students to parents,” Hinton said. “They allow us to come alongside and join them in what’s their God-given responsibility.”
“We are a Christian school first and foremost, but classical describes the type of Christian school,” Hinton said. “Many Christian schools run a traditional curriculum like you would find in public schools and then add in the Christian element. We are a classical Christian school, so not only do we teach our bible classes, including hermeneutics, doctrine, and apologetics in high school, we also teach in a classical method.”
In kindergarten through sixth grade the focus is on learning the basic facts in every subject taught, which includes the rules and grammar of Latin, English, poetry, science, mathematics, the chronology of history, Bible art and music.
“Our youngest students do a lot of learning through songs, chants, rhyme, and memorization,” Hinton said. “We try to make it fun for them. Memorization helps students learn facts, but also helps them become familiar with great speeches, great primary source documents, and poetry. That helps them understand language and vocabulary.”
In middle school there is a focus on formal logic and reasoning. Indeed these are taught in all middle school subjects, which include English, mathematics, history, logic, biblical studies, foreign language, science, and the arts. “We teach them how to analyze and compare,” Hinton said. “We want them to ask questions such as ‘Why?’ ‘How do we know that is true?’ and ‘What evidence is there?’”
High school students have advanced classes in the same fields. A majority of students also complete college courses either online or at local colleges. But their high school classes include an emphasis on formal rhetoric. “Students learn to write and speak in a manner that is eloquent and persuasive,” Hinton said. They give formal speeches and participate in debates. There is a required year-long senior thesis project, which students must defend publicly at the end of their senior year.
PCCS assesses academic performance with the Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP) in first through eighth grades and the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test in high school. According to Hinton, students’ growth as disciples and citizens is assessed by observation.
According to Hinton, PCCS students outperform students from independent, college preparatory schools on the CTP more than 50 percent of the time. Her goal is to move that number to more than 75 percent; “That will be happening shortly” she said.
This year, the school will implement the Singapore mathematics program in first through sixth grades.
Further into the future, Hinton expects to see growth in the school’s athletic programs as well as the addition of a travel abroad program for high school seniors.
Finally, she anticipates expansion to serve perhaps 275 students someday. That will require additional facilities.