The Thacher School is a co-ed boarding school for grades 9-12 in Ojai, California, about two hours north of Los Angeles. It is also known by the Spanish name Casa de Piedra, meaning House of Stone.


With a student body of around 210 boarders and 20 day students, the school is small enough for everyone to know everyone else. 39% of students are from out-of-state, 10% are international students, and the rest are from California. 29% receive financial aid. 40% of students previously attended public schools, and 60% private. Admission is very selective.

The Focus

Academics are very important at Thacher, but so are many other things. The most notable priority aside from classes is the horse program. As Sherman Day Thacher (who founded the school in 1889) was fond of saying, "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a boy." (The school did not go co-ed until 1977.) This slogan has not been forgotten; all incoming freshmen are required to care for and ride a horse, of which the on-campus barn has about 160. Thacher's horse department employs full- and part-time faculty members. After students ride for their entire first year, they can continue to do so if they want; the other option is to play a sport. Even those die-hard riders must participate in a team sport at some point during their four years. (Lacrosse is especially popular; the girls' varsity team is often the #1 girls' high school team in California. Football, on the other hand, has only existed as a sport at Thacher since 2003.) Also, camping is required in six-day chunks twice a year -- generally either backpacking or horsepacking (in which a horse, rather than a human, carries the gear), with the occasional kayaking trip.

Daily Structure

Anyone caring for a horse must feed it and muck the stall before 8 AM on weekdays and Saturdays and 9 AM on Sundays. Breakfast check-in is required for all students except seniors. The "Teacher On Active Duty," aka "TOAD," checks off each student's name when he enters the dining hall. (Not coincidentally, the school mascot is the toad.) All sophomores and juniors have a "morning job," which often consists of cleaning a classroom before the start of the schoolday. Classes begin at 8 AM and end at 3:05 PM, but students almost always have a few free periods during the day.

One time slot that everyone has free is the assembly period every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:30. The entire school is required to attend; assembly is held outdoors unless the weather is bad. On Mondays, the TOAD gives a speech on whatever topic s/he desires. Other than that, assembly is unplanned, completely open to announcements by anybody (including students).

After classes end, sports begin. 3:30-5 PM is the official period; following that, all rush back to their dorms to shower and dress for formal dinner. "Formal" takes place on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings at 6:00 sharp. Each table in the dining hall has one or two faculty members permanently assigned to it, and the group of eight students at each table changes approximately every two weeks. Following formal dinner, there is occasionally a speaker, sometimes optional and sometimes not; you'll know an event is required if you're told it is a "headmaster's invitation." If there are no after-dinner events, then students are free of obligations until 7:30. During study hall, from 7:30-9:30 PM, freshmen and sophomores are required to be in their own rooms (presumably doing homework) unless they've received permission, from the teacher on duty in the dorm that night, to study elsewhere. Upperclassmen are allowed to study wherever they please, but quiet is expected around campus.

The nightly "social hour" is only, in fact, half an hour long, from 9:30-10. The student union building (SUB) is a common destination, either for a student-run "snack bar" or just to play pool and buy snacks from vending machines. This is also the time when couples wander off into the shadows.

10 PM on weeknights, 10:30 on Fridays, and 11 on Saturdays marks check-in. Every student must be in his or her room when the prefect knocks. No students except seniors are allowed to leave the dorm again after check-in until five the next morning. Seniors are permitted to "wander" around campus until a later time.

Some cool things

Every Saturday night, the headmaster and his wife open their home to all students. Popular activities include playing foosball, watching movies, and especially baking cookies.

Thacher's Thanksgiving vacation is a week long, its winter vacation three weeks, and its spring break two. Classes do not take a break for national holidays, but there are generally two more-or-less random holidays every year. Though the administration picks the dates, and sometimes they are arbitrary, there are specific things that can cause a holiday: the birth of a baby to a faculty member or enough snow on the Pergola (at the center of campus) to make a snowball. I have been informed that the latter has not occurred since the 1960s. Announcements of faculty pregnancies, however, seem to happen at assemblies every year.

Thacher's website is at


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