On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Franklin Classical School (FCS) celebrated its silver anniversary at Liberty Hall in The Factory at Franklin, featuring a performance from Grammy Award-nominated contemporary Christian recording artist and FCS parent Natalie Grant, and a keynote message from author and school co-founder Dr. George Grant. An audience of over 450 alumni, students, faculty, families, and supporters of Franklin’s first Christian classical school were in attendance to commemorate the milestone.
For a school steeped in the study of history, 25 years may not seem very long. Yet in the past quarter-decade, Franklin Classical School has not only launched alumni whose lives and leadership have reached around the globe—it has helped set in motion more than thirty like-minded schools throughout the US, the Middle East, and Indonesia. “Legacy Forward” has been the theme of the school’s 25th year, as Franklin Classical School has rededicated itself to that which is embedded in the genetic structure of classical education—using history to set the stage for the future.
“As a classical school, our students study the time periods of history, from Antiquity to Modernity, in order to learn from it,” says Jeff Dokkestul, principal of Franklin Classical School since 2010. “The celebration of twenty-five years of FCS history is truly our 25th anniversary motto, Legacy Forward, as we continue to partner with our students and their families in following God’s leadership to impact future generations.”
The growth of Franklin Classical School, its educational model, and its curriculum mirror the growth seen by the once-small-town that it calls home. Starting as a one-course homeschool supplement taught by Dr. George Grant, Franklin Classical School has grown to a K-12 college preparatory school that houses over 150 students, with another 700-plus students affiliated through its homeschool umbrella, The Comenius School (TCS). Over 100 students from both FCS and TCS participate in nine sports, including football, basketball, cross country, soccer, baseball, volleyball, archery, golf and tennis.
With the first course taught by Grant in 1992 and the official creation of FCS as a homeschool tutorial in 1993, the foundations of what would become Franklin Classical School were laid. One of the cornerstone academic traditions is the 40-Hour Project, in which Upper Division students (9th-12th grades) spend 40 hours researching, learning and creating a project based on their own interest which coincides with the time period of study from the school year. Today, this learning style—known as Project-Based Learning (PBL)—has become more popular in the educational field, as studies show that giving students a voice in their own learning creates better student engagement and deeper learning.
In 2000, FCS began another tradition that would define its culture and focus on the importance of social-emotional learning as well as academics. That year, the first group of students began their school year at King’s Mountain Camp, which was not only a starting point for the academic year, but more importantly, dedicated to the social-emotional well-being, spiritual health, and community feel of the school body.
At Franklin Classical School, students learn to work within their own spheres of gifting and calling in order to impact the world for the cause of Christ. They can be found, literally around the world, attending seminary and graduate school, serving as missionaries, working in the healthcare industry, flying Navy planes and Black Hawk helicopters, serving as nurses in the Air Force and captains in the Marines, teaching in schools and universities, being featured as authors and artists in national publications, working with professional orchestras and ballet companies, leading financial institutions and publishing companies, and starting their own private businesses in a wide variety of fields.
“I am very grateful for all the accomplishments our students and families have made over the years,” says Dr. George Grant, founder of Franklin Classical School and the King’s Meadow Study Center, as well as pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin. “Franklin was a very different place a quarter century ago. But, it is evident to me that the mission and vision of the school hammered out so long ago is more relevant and more needed than ever before. We have a wonderful legacy. But, the need of the hour is to push that legacy forward.”
Dr. Grant presents Humanities lectures each Tuesday and Thursday to 9th – 12th grade students at FCS in Franklin. Through the years, his lectures have been recorded and shared throughout the world, and are used by classical schools and homeschoolers, as well as schools overseas. Schools in Iraq, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, Uganda, the Netherlands, Australia, and China also follow the Franklin Classical School reading lists. The King’s Meadow Curriculum developed by Grant is offered by curriculum company Apologia, which is currently adapting the video lecture series into textbooks. Nearly 20 other classical schools use the curriculum either in the classroom or for teacher supplemental research, paralleling the foundational learning style which has flourished at Franklin Classical School.
A Brief History of Franklin Classical School
In the fall of 1992, celebrated author, historian, and pastor Dr. George Grant began by teaching one course to a small group of homeschool students. By the spring of 1993 this small group had grown to 55 homeschool parents and teens attending his evening course, “The Impact of Christianity on Western Culture.” By the end of the popular course, students requested that he continue, and expand his teaching and class offerings.
By August 1993, Grant and his wife Karen partnered with publishing executive David Dunham and his wife Debbie to create a fledging homeschool cooperative they called Franklin Classical School. Dr. George Grant began teaching an American Culture Humanities course for 7th through 10th grade students, and David Dunham taught music two days a week, meeting at their publishing office in Franklin.
That was the first of many locations for the school, whose exponential growth gave Franklin Classical a somewhat-nomadic existence for a number of years as it outgrew site after site. Soon FCS added Latin, math courses and basic life science, moving to Franklin Fellowship Church to add more space for their students. By 1995, Franklin Classical School had its first headmaster, Robert Fulcher, as well as its first basketball team and first commencement exercises.
As the course offering continued to expand, FCS began to function as a more traditional school offering a full range of classes. The athletic program also continued to expand, with the first football conference championship and national championship in 2003, and the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams’ first conference championships in 2004.
Though the school started with high school students, FCS began making plans to add a full elementary school as well. Yet again, Franklin Classical School had outgrown their space, and entered a ten-year rental agreement with Christ Community Church in 2004.
Having served as a board member and Development Director, Jeff Dokkestul became the principal of Franklin Classical School in 2010. That same year, Tom Carson launched the Natural Philosophy Department, which encompasses math and science. In 2015, Franklin Classical School moved into its current location at 408 Church Street in historic downtown Franklin.
Twenty-five years of thesis declamations, 40-hour projects, athletic competitions won and lost—these accomplishments do not begin to total the difference that a community school has made in the lives of its families and in the world at large. Franklin Classical School is founded on a love of history, but the true product of its purpose is in the future—as the slogan says, “Legacy Forward.”