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It’s Easy to Learn

By Kara Pound
Photos courtesy of Angel Gray

South African political leader and philanthropist Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

As parents, we nurture and guide our children in hopes that they will lead a life filled with success and happiness. We cultivate them as infants, rear them as toddlers and support them in their youth. But when it comes time to send them off to school, it can feel like all of the good we’ve done is going to somehow become undone by external influences.

Verital Classical School

In the summer of 2016, a group of ten St. Augustine families came together to discuss the lack of a classical Christian education option in the area.

“All big believers in the classical model of education, they started talking and praying through the summer and fall,” explains Melinda Provenza, principal of Veritas Classical School, a new classical Christian school located on State Road 16. “They were ambitious and by the spring of 2017, were working together to find a location, develop uniforms and curriculum and hire staff.”

This summer, after a few months of extensive renovations including an expanded outdoor play area, Veritas Classical School opened its doors to its first 48 students.

“Classical education offers a method of teaching that goes back to Ancient Greece,” says Provenza. “It’s about teaching the whole child – not just dumping in information, but reaching the heart of the child so that all of it is connected. Our mission, to put it concisely, is love God, love others and love learning.”

The school, which teaches kindergarten through eighth grade, aims to train students to master a core body of knowledge, reason clearly and articulate effectively. These objectives, as Provenza tells us, happen at different stages of a child’s education.

“The grammar stage, or K through sixth, is students assimilate a lot of different information,” she says. “They’re like sponges, so we teach them facts. In middle school, or the logic stage, they start to question everything they’ve been taught. That’s where we help them make sense of it all and think for themselves.”

SMALL CLASS SIZE = BETTER LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

The school’s mission statement states, “We embolden young men and women to engage the world with Christ-like embodiments of spiritual fruit. We aim to cultivate students of excellence who evaluate all human knowledge through the lens of Scripture. Our goal is to instill a lifelong passion for learning in our students: capable of discerning truth, appreciating goodness and recognizing beauty.”

“One of the hallmarks of classical education is that we want students who love learning, so we take advantage of their stages of development as children and students and coincide well with their developmental stages,” says Provenza.

With just five months behind it, Veritas Classical School has had a few growing pains. But, as Provenza explains, they are welcome obstacles.

“One of the things we’ve encountered, since this is our first year, is that there’s not a lot of consistency of what the students have all learned or where they all are,” she says. “That’s been a little bit of a challenge, but not anything we can’t handle. It’s been fun seeing where they all are.”

While Veritas Classical School ends after eighth grade, St. Joseph Academy Catholic High School, a four-year college preparatory high school in town, offers a continuation of Christian education.

“One of our goals here is we look at ourselves as a family,” says Provenza. “We are a community of families that want a great education for our children and want to be in a community together.”