St. Andrew’s Academy, in the Lake Almanor area of Northern California, was founded twenty years ago this past fall, by a local boy—me.
I had what I consider a story-book childhood. I swam the lake like a fish in the summer, forded every creek and river I found, hiked through the woods and up the volcano, and had snowball fights every chance I could. I lived outside whenever I had the opportunity.
I remember Christmas caroling in the neighborhoods of Chester as the snow fell gently onto my stocking cap. One time, we got to ride on the back of a big flatbed truck, sitting on bales of hay as we belted out carols to anyone who would come outdoors.
In those days, some of us had cable television if we lived in town. There wasn’t much in the way of radio, and the internet wasn’t even a dream. We didn’t sit around bemoaning our lack of entertainment, though; we entertained ourselves and enjoyed our friendships as we did so. We made up games to play outdoors in the summer and games to play indoors in the winter.
I remember watching Alice in Wonderland in the Chester Theater, and around Christmas time going down from the elementary school to the Theater to watch cartoons. I also remember the first video player we had in the Foos house—my dad chose Beta. The choice of videos was very limited in the Lake Almanor Basin, though. We didn’t spend much time in front of the television.
Those days are gone. But, the best things from those days are still alive and well and an integral part of the vision here at St. Andrew’s Academy.
My wife and I started St. Andrew’s as an after school program on the Central Coast in the late ‘90s but found ourselves a couple of years later back in Plumas County. It was here, in the Fall of 1999, that St. Andrew’s relaunched as a homeschool co-op with middle and high school students. St. Andrew’s soon grew into a day school and for the next ten years invested in local students. Back in the Fall of 2008, we took it to the next level and became a boarding school.
Some of our graduates have returned to this area after college to work, get married, and raise children. The rest can be found all over this country and other parts of the world even, attending college or working in the military, medicine, education, the arts, aviation, and accounting. Many are married—two to each other!—and raising children.
The St. Andrew’s faculty and staff are blessed to have invested in these lives and are proud of all of our graduates—especially our local students, but also our amazing boarding students from other states and countries.
With our school building anchored next to the river in Chester, and the Church building overlooking the meadow, Old Town Chester functions as the Academy’s extended campus. Students participate directly in the life of the town and community. And, it’s always a joy to introduce new boarding students to the beauty and grandeur of the Lake Almanor Basin. After splitting and stacking firewood, participating in local events, and enjoying the craziness of our local Independence Day celebrations, our boarding students eventually become honorary locals.
The academy teaches her students in a time-honored tradition of classical education, not unlike the way my grandmother learned in her little one-room school house in North Dakota. Students are challenged with Math and Science, with the greatest literature of the centuries, with learning languages, and most importantly, with learning to think.
With the onslaught of the internet and social media in our culture severely reducing our capacity for sustained thought, we believe teaching kids to think deeply and clearly is more important than ever.
The skills needed to deal with the challenges and opportunities of the technological age are the same skills that have always been needed to deal with life—the most important of which is thinking clearly. Loving and desiring come naturally to us humans. But loving and desiring what? We put the best that has been thought and said throughout the history of the world in front of our students, asking them to consider what ought to be loved, what ought to be desired. For we will, all of us, follow our desires and our loves.