The River Houses (riverhouses.org) is a national association of local homeschool societies. We help homeschooling families make friends, form local groups, and give their children a great homeschool education.
Each local chapter within the River Houses organization is called a House — just like in the Harry Potter stories — and each House is made up of a group of local homeschooling families who come together for social support and educational encouragement throughout the year. The Houses are strength multipliers for local homeschooling families in each community.
Each of our Houses takes its name from a local river — Merrimack River House, perhaps, or Red River House, or Cedar Creek House, or Cuyahoga River House. The Houses are not buildings, they are groups of people — chapters of our national organization — and they are “light” by design: they offer many opportunities but impose few requirements, and they are open to all active homeschoolers within their local area.
Each House has three volunteer Deans — member parents who agree to serve as coordinators for House activities and to welcome new families into the House. Some members may simply wish to get to know a few homeschooling neighbors and attend a monthly outing in the park; others may wish to meet once a week to socialize and compare notes at the local public library (an excellent plan that we encourage); still others may wish to organize field trips or formal cooperative teaching opportunities. All levels of participation are welcome.
Like other community-oriented civic organizations, the River Houses network is non-political and organizationally secular, and we welcome homeschool families from every background. We are not a curricular program: homeschoolers following any curriculum (or no curriculum) are all welcome to join the River Houses. Instead of a network of affinity groups — secular homeschoolers, religious homeschoolers, Classical homeschoolers, and so on — the River Houses is a network of proximity groups: homeschoolers of the Onion River valley (Onion River House), or of the Mulberry Creek region (Mulberry Creek House), or of the upper Minnesota basin (Whetstone River House). The River Houses makes it easier for homeschoolers to build upon the distinctive educational opportunities that are available in every community and to accumulate and share local knowledge for the benefit of all.
To provide some common experiences and to link our members together as a whole we distribute (by email, web, and social media) a rich assortment of informal educational materials on science, art, geography, history, literature, and more, all through the year. Members are free to use these materials, or pass them over, or adapt them to their own local circumstances and interests as they see fit, all in keeping with the freedom of choice that every homeschooling family enjoys. We produce a handy set of homeschool calendars and planners, and we also have a set of six standard reference books that we recommend for your family library — not children’s books, but family books that can support your homeschool teaching in many different subject areas, year after year.
The emblem of the River Houses is the coat of arms shown here. From time immemorial, schools, colleges, and universities have borne coats of arms that reflect their history and ideals, and our coat of arms represents — can you see it? — three houses beside a river running through golden fields. In the language of medieval heraldry the design would be described as Or, a chevron azure between three lozenges sable (On a gold field, a blue chevron between three black diamonds). The River Houses motto, from the ancient Roman poet Horace, is Hoc erat in votis, freely translated as “This was ever my wish.” Horace’s simple country wish was: “A handsome house to lodge a friend, / A river at my garden’s end.” (The ancient Roman poet has also given his name to our River Houses mascot, Horace the River Otter.)
The River Houses project is being developed by Dr. Robert J. (Bob) O’Hara, a resident of the Nashua River valley in Massachusetts. An award-winning science teacher and an academic biologist by training (Ph.D., Harvard University), Bob O’Hara has taught at Harvard, the University of North Carolina, and Middlebury College, and he has been internationally recognized for his work in residential education at the college and university level. Through the River Houses project he hopes to bring that expertise to the homeschooling community.
The River Houses project is now in the development phase — we aim to become a self-sustaining membership organization. Please subscribe to our free newsletter to keep up with our progress and get a host of wonderful homeschool teaching tips every week! And if you’re interested in creating one of our first homeschool Houses in your neighborhood, email us to let us know (email@example.com) and we can give you some additional inside information. 😊
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I have to follow a special curriculum or teaching philosophy if I join the River Houses? Not at all. The River Houses is not a curricular program, and homeschoolers following any curriculum (or no curriculum) are all welcome. The individual Houses, as chapters of the national organization, are geographically (locally) based community groups; they aren’t focused on any special theme, curriculum, or philosophy. They provide homeschooling neighbors with opportunities to make friends, offer encouragement, and take advantage of the informal social and educational opportunities that exist within their local area.
Is this a co-op program? The River Houses is similar to some homeschool co-ops (cooperatives), but our structure is generally “lighter” and each of our Houses is a chapter of our national society (rather than being an unattached local organization). Homeschool co-ops are quite variable in their structure, but most have formal participation requirements; they may have a specific curricular or philosophical focus (a science co-op or an arts co-op; a religious co-op or a secular co-op); and they often charge their members for specialized teaching programs. The River Houses chapters are simpler social groups for all interested homeschoolers in a given local area. Some members of a House may indeed wish to organize (say) a special weekly science class within the House for a year or two, and then move on to something else. Other members may be satisfied with their own curricular work at home but would like to organize group field trips for their students. Still others may be interested in arranging an annual art show at the local library or an annual pumpkin-growing contest each summer. Special programs and subgroups can form and dissolve within each House over time according to individual interests, but the House itself as a local society of homeschooling members continues year after year, like a good neighborhood civic organization or an extended family.
Am I required to purchase specific books if I join? Not at all. We do have a set of six standard reference books that we recommend to all homeschoolers — a world atlas, a comprehensive dictionary, an almanac, a history encyclopedia, a bird guide, and an astronomy guide — but these are not requirements, and no one will be checking to see if you have them on your shelves. We recommend them, however, as permanent additions to your family teaching library, and we often refer to them in our printed and online River Houses materials as a way of providing some shared background and a set of common experiences for our members.
I’m interested in this idea but I’m not a homeschooler — can I still get involved? Yes indeed! We’re planning a “Friends” group for anyone and everyone who would like to support and encourage our work and the noble cause of homeschooling. In the mean time, be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay in the loop. 😊