Treehouse Masters — Homeschool Edition

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

My family enjoys watching the cable television show Treehouse Masters. We’ve had hearty conversations about the theme we would chose if we were clients of Pete Nelson and crew. Would ours look like a castle, a pirate ship, or a log cabin? Personally, I love the winding stairs, natural railings, and suspension bridges they often build. After watching an episode, we’ll head to bed and dream of spending time in an awesome tree house located in our own back yard.

Earlier this year, my eleven-year-old son, Ben, asked if we could build a tree house together. My first thought was, Please no. I’ve already built two tree houses and three forts in my role as dad. But as I prepared to give him an answer, I realized that as the youngest of my seven children, he was only involved in one of those projects—and then at a very young age. So I answered with an enthusiastic “Yes!” The next day Ben and I went out to the back yard and selected the perfect spot amid three towering oaks.

I told Ben to start drawing up some concepts. After reviewing his ideas, I made some sketches of my own. My son took the initiative to buy a box of popsicle sticks and build a 3D scale model, which proved quite helpful as our adventure gained momentum. Being a mechanical engineer specializing in structural analysis, and knowing this would probably be my last major construction project with one of my kids, I decided that we were going to make the best tree house possible. It may not be as grand as what they make on Treehouse Masters, but it would be something we could be proud of.

Ben was ready to start right away, but I laid out some realistic expectations and we agreed to officially start on the first day of spring. (Time for a homeschool lesson about March 21 being the date of the spring equinox. Always teaching, always learning.) Our first task was to clear out the small saplings and ground covering. By April we had ordered the anchor pins and wood. Ben was full of anticipation as he eyed the massive pile of wooden beams and studs stacked neatly on our driveway.

We were unable to work all five weekends in May due to family commitments, a graduation, and homeschool conferences. But we drilled holes and installed the anchor pins the first weekend in June. We worked a second Saturday that month and added the two main beams and most of the joists. We took some time off to enjoy a family beach trip during the Fourth of July weekend, then got back to work for a couple of hundred-degree, hundred-percent-humidity Saturdays that month. I loved taking breaks to sit with Ben, admire the work of our hands, and enjoy some homemade strawberry lemonade prepared with love by the girls in our family.

We then added the ladder, floor deck boards, and railings, during which Ben and I talked about life, theology, Jesus, heaven, family, and creation. All these conversations were related to our construction project. I told him about when I was a kid and had to hand-tighten screws, which was much harder than using a power drill. We talked about safety, civil engineering, strength of materials, and load-carrying capacities. And of course we talked about our future plans to read, sleep, and eat in this tree house we’d built with our own hands.

During one of our chats, I told him I was impressed by his patience with the time the project was taking. His response was a great reminder of the real objective of this undertaking: Ben was really enjoying the unrushed time we were spending together as father and son. (It’s times like this when I can say, “Life is good!”) You see, a key was to remember that the goal wasn’t to keep the project on schedule; it was to spend quality and quantity time with my son.

We finished the main construction by the end of September. Then Ben painted it in October to protect the wood against the rain and sun. We still hope to add a roof, some built-in seats, and possibly screening, but the main parts are complete. It certainly feels like the real deal, and we’ve already enjoyed some time reading, relaxing, sleeping, and eating high up in the trees with a great view of the forest.

I admit that this is clearly a tree house built by amateurs, but the personal investment, bonding, and relationship building that went into the project is worth more than any amount I would pay a professional. I’m glad I said yes to my son. We did much more than build a tree house; I built into the life of my youngest son and created a memory that will last us both a lifetime.

What projects have you enjoyed with your children that proved to be good teaching opportunities and investments of your time and energy?

Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!

 

Davis Signature

© 2015 Davis Carman

homeschoolcastles.com

Davis is the president of Apologia Educational Ministries, the #1 publisher of creation-based science and Bible curriculum. He is also the author of three illustrated children’s books designed to instill a biblical worldview. Good Morning, God is based on Deuteronomy 6, and A Light for My Path is an ABC book based on Psalm 119. His latest, In the Beginning, is based on the Creation account in Genesis. Davis believes that if there was ever a time to homeschool, it is now!

 

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