WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
A teacher, homeschooler to her eight children and cancer survivor, Amy Kalscheur says, ' We are strong, but our strength is not from ourselves; it's from Christ.'
Smile at the small stuff that goes wrong. Work together as a team with your family. Have conviction to take up your cross every day. Serve your community, and allow it to serve you.
This was the advice from Amy Kalscheur, a Catholic homeschooling mom, speaking about difficult days when everything goes wrong.
Kalscheur, from Indianapolis, Ind., said there will be those days when nothing seems to work, when she just wants to throw in the towel and when she is too tired to lift her head up off the pillow.
Like other Catholic homeschooling parents, Kalscheur knows those days all too well. She taught in public schools for many years, and now devotes her time to homeschooling her eight children, aged three to 16.
Homeschooling is good at restoring a family, she said, but there will be days when she is going to be tested and challenged. She shared examples of such days, days when her baby vomited in the car, the day she was chased by a bull in her backyard and the day her basement flooded.
"You know that there are 365 days in a year, and I don't remember specifics about most of them.
"But I remember the day we lost power for 24 hours. I remember when we lost our well and had no water. I remember days when we were all sick and thinking we're going to die on the couch together," said Kalscheur.
"Those are the days that should have dragged us down, should have defeated us, and should have made me want to give up."
She has chaired the Indianapolis Catholic Home School Conference for six years. She was the keynote speaker at the Western Canadian Catholic Homeschool Conference, held March 14-16 at Providence Renewal Centre.
"I think all moms and dads experience hard days. I have zero statistics to back me up on this, but I have this gut feeling that homeschool moms and dads experience those days more often than other moms and dads," she said.
She shared some practical examples of how to avoid having hard days. For the child who likes to make messes, she developed tactile boxes, filled with safe things to play with. She developed daily schedules to keep her days on track. Bedtimes are set in advance. Most important, they smile and laugh, even when bad things happen.
"I cannot control all of the little details that happen in our lives, but what can I control? I can only control how I react. I don't want my children seeing me throwing a fit because things didn't go my way, so I've learned to smile at those small things," said Kalscheur.
"If the house didn't burn down and no one was hurt, it's okay to laugh. I know it's a whole bottle of grenadine that exploded in the pantry, but we're going to get a clean pantry after, so it's okay."
When the bad days occur, the expectation is that everyone works together to resolve whatever problems arise.
Kalscheur shared another personal difficulty that had many in the crowd in tears. Two years ago, at age 38, she discovered a lump in her breast. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. Family friends offered to cook meals, clean her home and take care of other household tasks.
Initially, Kalscheur did not want their help.
"These are the things I do for my family. These are the ways I show my children I love them, and you're taking those things away from me. I don't need your help," she told her friends.
But as her health worsened, she gave into the idea of accepting their assistance. Here was the Lord, in the form of her friends, offering support, and she wanted to send them away.
Ninety-five families brought them meals. Kalscheur did not cook a meal from August 2011 to March 2012. While she stayed sick in bed, friends came over and helped her children clean the home. A benefit was organized to pay for the expensive cancer treatments.
When her seven-year-old daughter asked if she was going to die, Kalscheur told her, "When someone dies from cancer, it doesn't happen all at once. It takes some time. My doctors will know.
"I promise you that if the doctors change their mind, and they think I am going to die, we will let you know. You're not going to wake up and find me dead."
Her cancer has since gone into remission. Through the love of her family and the care shown by her friends, she was able to get through a tough time.
"We need to allow others in our community to help us. Sometimes it takes burying our pride under a whole heap of humility," concluded Kalscheur. "We are strong, but our strength is not from ourselves; it's from Christ. Through him, we can do anything."
Other speakers at the conference included Father Paul Moret, Father Andrew Bogdanowicz, veteran homeschooler Therese McDonald and Paul Van Den Bosch, a board member with the Alberta Home Education Association.