we built the home: our story of a homeschool homestead

A decade of effort and creativity condensed into one simple sentence: we built the home.

We planned our house design years ago. And when I say we, I mean mostly my daughter and me because my husband was less interested in the details of how big a room should be, whether the kids should share a sink or have two sinks, whether we should have laminate countertops, choose pine or white trim. He’s into details.

Just not house design details.

And when I say ‘we’ built the house, I mean we hired a custom builder to build our home.

Choose a builder, no small task. A final price point was not my only end goal.

  • Do I like these people?
  • Can I trust them?
  • Do I have others telling me they are reliable and capable of quality work?
  • Check check check. There is a certain level of just trusting your gut in business interactions.

Our home builders were lovely to work with, very aware of the industry, what was available in our area, and how to approach just about everything.

Luckily, I landed on a conscientious builder who is also married to a clever designer. Could there be a better combination?

  • Design meetings every week,
  • questions about ceiling plans (didn’t think of that!),
  • measuring the furniture I would keep (and imagining how it would fit into our home),
  • deciding colours for everything (this job is way more difficult than it appears),
  • choosing every single tile, wood, carpet, and trim sample.

Apparently, there’s such a thing as decision fatigue. In the end, I was still eager.

Can’t say I have reserved energy for a new house build one day, but I loved every moment of the incredibly creative process.

There’s something private about a home. Everything in my home has a story. The rocking chair in my writing study was something I found in a discount store. The rocker wasn’t my first choice. But it has now held four babies. So many nights of catatonic rocking. The two tidy totes of baby clothes in the storage room reflect my inability to let go of those sentimental moments. We put our names on the cement wall of the corner of the study where I type, only a few feet away.

My husband etched our names in a heart in a tree just outside this window too.

April 2015 017

I loved going to lottery homes to decide which home I would choose.

I prayed for five years, every night, in hopes that my parents would win the house with the fancy waterfall flowing from the second-floor stairwell right down to the basement floor. (No one told me the lottery was likely decided in weeks. And that God generally doesn’t cash in prayers.)

As a child, I used my allowance to buy house design magazines.

I always drew houses on paper. I have copies of those early house drawings. The bathroom was far too close to the kitchen. The dining room is a long walk from the kitchen. But when I wasn’t writing a story, I was planning my home.

As a young couple, my husband and I did build a house. From the outside in. I loved the exterior of that home. Blue, of course. With an 18-foot high entry, a grand staircase invites guests in. It sat on a 3/4 acre lot in the middle of town. Large enough to play with landscape design and have a prosperous prairie vegetable garden.

We left that home in search of a simpler life.

Since then I have read and read and read about house design, especially focusing on building smaller homes. Somewhere in that quest for a small and simple life, I convinced myself that a 500 sq foot home an hour from civilization would be the ideal fit.

My husband’s eyes bugged out.

He reminded me that we will be homeschooling three teenagers at the time of the second house build; not so wise.

Besides that he’s a physician that delivers babies and attends to hospital emergencies…unless we build a helipad and buy a helicopter, not gonna happen.

The Not So Big House” by Sarah Susanka informed my house design process. A series of lessons I learned are posted here:

I learned that I need to be practical about how I use my home.

  • Do I need a great room large enough to inhabit a hundred people every week? Nope, cause that’s never happened.
  • Does a mudroom at the front of the house, both beautiful but highly organized seem like a good investment? Oh yeah baby!
  • This family is in and out of the house all day long, and there are a few of us.

The morning our house site was excavated, the kids and I were tenting on the site.

It’s a sign: time to get up and break camp!

July 2015 070No small task. Warning: many rocks died in the process.

July 2015 066

Bedrock needed blasting, trees needed felling. We didn’t move to the burbs.

And then the house building began…

Just under one year later, we were transporting packed boxes into our new home.

“may your walls

know joy;

may each room

hold laughter,

and may every window

open to great possibility.”

And the story had just begun…

-Mary Ann Radmacher-Hershey

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.