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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: We Choose Virtues… and a fun GIVEAWAY!

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I raved on here a few months ago when we began using We Choose Virtues, a “middos” (character traits) program developed by a Christian company which can be used in Christian or secular settings.  It’s interesting – I wasn’t exactly shopping around for a program like this, but now that I’ve found it, I’m thrilled and intend to keep cycling through the 12 “Kids of Virtueville” for as long as it takes for the messages to start sinking in with my kids (and – gasp – me.…)

In any event, since I wrote that review, I requested and received review copies a few extra components that are very helpful add-ons to the core program.  And at the end of this review, I will let you know what you can do to win some for your very ownself!

NOTE:  I did receive free materials in return for a review.  However, the content of the review is solely my own opinion and has not been influenced or dictated in any way.

flash-cards.jpgFirst of all, an overview of the program:  I was immediately struck (not literally!) by the versatility of this program, in that you can do as little of it as you want… or extend it, even, perhaps, across the curriculum. 

At its core is a stack of Virtue flash cards.  One side depicts a cute kid with an “accessory”… on the reverse is a brief slogan, an “antonym” (ie the behaviour you hope to transform!), and, if you choose the faith-based (ie Christian) option, there’s a Biblical quote as well.  For our family, we’re going through the cards at the rate of one a week… you might want to go faster, or slower, but one a week feels about right to me.

Something to like right off the bat:  the virtues are all in the first person - “I am…” followed by an affirmation of a positive character trait.  The overall theme of the program is that you are using these affirmations to transform your kids’ (or students’) ugly “caterpillars” into beautiful “butterflies” of virtue.

For example, this week’s middah (I use the Hebrew term because it just seems more natural; we haven’t really ever used the term “virtue” around here) is “I am Self-Controlled.”  The catchphrase to go along with this is, “I make myself do the right thing.”  The negative description is “I am NOT wild, rowdy or disorderly, and I don’t expect others to control me.”  Oh, and the character for this week is Stop Sign Madeline, who is happy to try to control everybody ELSE, telling them all the rules but losing control of herself.  (When I drew it this morning, I sort of went “ouch” because of Naomi Rivka’s tendencies to boss everybody else around while not paying attention to her own flaws in the least… oh, and did I mention – ugh – my own???)

Here’s what the flash cards look like:

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In any event, the virtues may be tough, but the cards are very cute and we all began enjoying them right away.  Now, the cards themselves aren’t cheap, but they are indeed a fairly self-contained, self-explanatory program for any homeschooling parent or teacher with a little imagination. 

However, if you want a little more hand-holding, the program does extend quite nicely in a few interesting ways, whether you’re dealing with a classroom or just your own kids.  For instance, a Teacher’s Manual and various posters and sticker charts (including a 100-day chart with corresponding butterfly stickers) are available to go along with the cards.

After a few weeks, I took the plunge (more expensive) and bought the Parenting Cards, which at the time came with a free download of the Colouring Book which goes along with the program.  I like the parenting cards because they give us a little more insight into the “kid” being featured each week – the flash cards alone are cute, but the kid is featured in close-up and it’s sometimes not easy to tell what their accessory is or what it means (“Why does the ‘I am Content’ card feature a boy sitting with a cake?”  Turns out that’s Cake Jake, who has a hard time getting his “wanter” under control…). 

The parenting cards also include a challenge – this week’s challenge, for self-control, is “the entire family should choose to do something that you usually get in trouble for not doing!”  This is one of the more obscure ones; others, slightly more helpful, include, for “I am Content,” “the entire family should try to go the whole day without saying ‘I want’ or ‘I’m bored.’”  There are also tips for finding teachable moments with that virtue, plus suggestions for helping create apologies that are appropriate to the offense in question.  In truth, I haven’t used either of these sections much.

Here’s what the parenting cards look like:

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The cards are very sturdy and attractively designed and as I said, they have a great deal of kid-appeal.  Unlike the flash cards, the parenting cards are NOT available in a secular version, so you may want to gloss over the verse or paste a corresponding verse of your choice over the Christian scriptural excerpts.  Of the twelve cards, ten feature selections from the Jewish Bible, which I have pretty much read as-is; the two I put off ‘till the end (as you can see here, including this week’s) feature Christian scriptural verses, which I have just omitted when I read the card.

Since I’ve been using We Choose Virtues, I have often found myself wishing there was an analogous Jewish product, but so far haven’t found anything.  I thought I was close at the Torah Home Education Conference when I saw a product called “Keyboard Town Pals: Let’s Lead!” which is a character-based program designed by religious Jews but secular in nature so it can be used in public schools.  However, their program, while it’s very cute and features adorable puppets, is a $35 add-on to their core product, which is essentially a typing program.  Drat!  Here’s the poster for that product though… you can see it’s very cute and professionally done.  They even have a funky USB bracelet for kids to store their work on.

In any event, I like the range of materials available in WCV reinforcement products, and two new ones joined our family today, sent to me free and also available as part of the fabulous giveaway!  They are the Virtue Clues and the Kids Virtue Poster.

The Virtue Clues are essentially the same as the flashcards but smaller, in a self-contained little pouch which has a handy magnet for sticking it to the fridge, a file cabinet, or anywhere you want around your home.  There’s not as much information on these cards, so they might not be great as a standalone… but maybe a good intro to the program, and the price is right!  The virtue clues include the same reinforcement tip as the parenting card on the reverse – there is no scriptural reference on these, making them a good choice for anyone who wants to avoid the Christian references.  Ditto for the poster, which is a great way to meet all the kids, their virtues and antonyms, all at a single glance, laid out attractively against a rainbow background.

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In general, there’s a lot to love about this program: the cartoon mascots with their concrete accessories, the colourful, well-thought-out design, and – most of all – the concept that these middos (aka virtues!) are well within the grasp of an ordinary kid (or mom).  I can easily see these activities fitting in any family or homeschool, Jewish, Christian, secular or otherwise, where parents want to call attention to and reinforce positive character traits without wallowing in negativity and giving kids plenty of opportunities to see themselves succeeding..

So here’s the deal with the giveaway… oh, but first, a couple of special deals:

These once-a-year specials are available from the We Choose Virtues website for a couple more days:
• Free shipping-no promo code needed
• 25% off our Homeschool Kit- click here to shop and enter HOMESCHOOL25 or
• 30% off our Parenting Cards-SPRING30

And now… the giveaway!  Winner will receive BOTH the Poster and Virtue Clues cards (shown above) to get you started in a fun, easy way.  These will be mailed directly from the (hopefully) good folks at We Choose Virtues.

Contest will close Monday, June 4, 2012 at midnight.  Because I want to do something a little more personal than some contests, you can enter as many times as you want… but each entry must include an example of your child’s virtues (middos, character traits, any way you want to translate it!) at either their best or WORST.  So let’s hear it, and you could win!

****  Entries will be judged by my family and anyone else around our table over Shabbos (Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath), June 9th and 10th, with the winner announced here on or before Sunday, June 10th.  Just to let you know – I have pretty slapstick teenagers, so the more hilarious your example, the better your odds of winning.  ;-)

14 comments:

Tawnee said...

My daughter would be mortified that I'm posting this but I would say the biggest virtue we need to work on for her is "content." Just yesterday, she went to her cousins to play for the day while I did some work. She was very excited,as she lines going. I picked her up 8 hrs later --- 8 HRS -- she got in the car and asked what we were doing. I said going home for dinner. She asked for take out. I said no, I has stuff at home to grill. Due complained that we weren't going out. Her friend from next door practically greeted us as we pulled up and they played while dinner was made. I called her for dinner. She begged for friend to stay. After dinner she asked to invite friend back. Was told no to which she cried. Then she asked to play game. I explained it was time to settle down. To which she asked for something else. It was an exhausting exchange. Clearly she is NEVER content. (Sigh) -- definitely need to work on that. Thanks for the giveaway!

Tiffany M said...

I have two daughters ages 4 & 5, Hannah & Evelyn. What they need to work on is---thankfulness. I realized this the most when we went to Wal-Mart a couple of days ago. Before entering the store they asked for a pack of chewing gum. I agreed under one condition that they be on their best behavior in the store. They were FAIRLY good as we completed our shopping. As we entered the checkout lane I congratulated them on their good behavior and agreed to buy them chewing gum. Wal-Mart now has these 1/2 packs of gum now made by Orbitz gum for $0.50. These little packs are so cute and pretty & me trying to save money seen a good bargain, two packs for the price of one!! I picked up the gum and purchase it and I'm embarrassed to say that they both starting throwing a fit that it wasn't big enough of a pack & they didn't want the pack that I was buying them. What's worse is there is an elderly couple in line behind me witnessing the whole thing. So, I *politely* (as best as I could be, I was getting pretty upset at this point) took the packs away placed them back on the shelf and told them when they could learn to be happy and thankful for the gum I was buying them, then they may get some at the next shopping trip. It was a hard lesson for them and needless to say they were not happy campers on the way home. Thank you for this giveaway! We could definitely use them at our house :)

tabatha said...

Well, sometimes my boy is too honest. Don't get me wrong, honesty is great, just sometimes I wish his honesty was a little quieter, you know like when you're in line at the grocery store and your little man is standing with you, tugging on your shirt cause he NEEDS to tell you something, then he yells, 'MOMMY, I POOTED!' Yeah, I could've taken that info a smidge quieter! ;) Thanks for the giveaway! Do you need the email addresses too? If so mine is boobear27525@gmail.com

Debby Stotler said...

My dd struggles with attentiveness... One of my faves. Yesterday am, at breakfast, we are reviewing ancient greece... Pericles, etc. I ask random questions with great response from other two siblings. I inquire if she recalls the city- state at war with Athens. Two bites of oatmeal... She responds (confidently) "the hippo guy". Ok.. at least a Greek. Corrected her and moved on. Her turn again. Asked a question about the Olympics and she stares directly at me and says, " what subject are we on?". I love this brillant child but attentive she is not.

Laura said...

I am a Deaf homeschooling mom to three hearing children and LOVE to use any visual materials I can get my hands on to work on my children's character. I have heard so much wonderful things about the product but our finances have always been tight. When I met with a friend to get some advice from her about my struggle with homeschooling in my first year three years ago, the first thing she said in order for my kids to stop complaining, I have to work on their "hearts" first. Even though my heart was in the right place to homeschool, it never occurred to me that I needed to work on their hearts first. I was looking at the wrong place putting academics first over God, and my relationship with the Lord changed for the better and so did my relationship with the kids. We actually got along better and I had no idea there was room to develop a close bond with them. Currently we are working on being obedient, respectful, helpful, and content.

Laura said...

I am a Deaf homeschooling mom to three hearing children and would LOVE to get my hands on visual materials. I have heard so much wonderful things about the product but just have always been financially tight and felt if I am meant to get the product, He will provide. When I first started homeschooling three years ago, I was having some problems with one child complaining so much. Out of frustration, I met with another homeschool mom to go over the materials I was using to teach my children. The first thing she said that I needed to work on was my children's heart and then school will work out itself. I realized then God convicted me that although I had my heart in the right place to homeschool, I was wrong to put academics first over God. Little did I know because I had started spending time working on my children's hearts, my relationship with the Lord grew closer to Him. I had no idea that there was room to develop closer bond with my children. We are currently working on obedient, respectful, helpful and content. Thanks for the giveaway!

Jane Maritz said...

First word that comes to mind is dilly-dallier! My daughter dawdles with just about everything - I can send her to the bathroom to brush her teeth, verbally remind her every few minutes, and she's happily playing with her dolls in the sink 20 minutes later, no teeth brushed.

She is also strong-willed, which has its pros and cons. I love that she stands her ground and argues forcefully - but not always! :)

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Kelli Becton said...

I'm gonna have to go with self control since it wasn't that awful long ago I was woken up at 5 am with fire crackers going off - you read that right. Fire . crackers. 5. am. My 6 yr old decided he just HAD to light them - he's especially talented with things that aren't allowed. I make jokes because I have to. It's more attractive than crying. Spence is having some trouble making the right choices. We are teaching him scripture and working to help him decide to follow after God. I'd love to win this. It could save our house - literally. Thank you for hosting. kellidparker@yahoo.com

DZaig at Yahoo dot com said...

My two older daughters are thoughful and caring for their baby sister. When she cries they forget about what they wanted and ask me (more like tell me) to take care of the baby. Everyone asks if the older two girls are jealous of the baby. I have to say they are not jealous, quite the opposite.

I always try to encourage them to be loving and caring towards each other and everyone. I think that's most important.

Laura S. said...

I have three boys: Jonathan, Benjamin, and Matthew (6,4, and 2 respectively). I think that it is a fair assessment to say that one of my boy's best qualities is whole- heartedness. They do everything that they do, with ALL of their might! They are delightful,inquisitive, loving, endlessly curious and busy all.the.time. They are wonderful boys, who I believe will grow up to love God and serve Him with all they have, and all they are.

All strengths have their flip- side, however And, I would say their biggest " need to improve" area
character- wise would be self -control. Perhaps if they
can gain some self control, and gain it soon, they will
all safely reach manhood with all their body parts
attached and in good working order. Maybe we will all
( including mom and dad) sustain fewer injuries, and
our home will need fewer repairs! Just this year alone,
we have been to the ER to have a forehead glued back
together, we have broken more than one window
screen, broken the stair gate, wooden blinds, and
knocked paint off of our walls! Basically, I have given
birth to a human recking crew!
I am excited about the possibility that I might actually be able to teach my young men to harness and control these strong impulses they have , and learn to be constructive and self controlled, instead of....well, the opposite! ;)

Lbushelle (at) gmail dot com

shang09 said...

I've seen reviews on this before and been impressed, but unable to afford it so far. I have 4 girls- 7, 4.5, 3, 3 months. My oldest is an over dramatic drama queen. She is an always or never child. She has always been very sensitive and feels things very deeply. She is extremely obedient and fairly honest but struggles with diligence and emotional self control.

shang09 said...

My 4.5yo daughter is as mischevious as they come. he is helpful, perseverant (both good and bad), and forgiving, but needs great help in obedience and self control.

shang09 said...

My 3yo (today!) also has a mischevious bent. She is obviously still very young, but we are really working on helpfulness and obedience with her. All of my children could use a good helping of kindness, too.

The Ratcliffe Gang said...

I think my youngest children's best trait is loyalty. When playing outside with neighbourhood friends, they will walk away from their friends if the play turns unfair towards their sibling. They truly are each other's best friend, best defender, and best cheerleader. I've never seen siblings who just "make it work" as well as they do. Even their older brother and sister, who are best of friends now, didn't "get it" the way that my Littles do at their ages (7 & 9) - and I'm super grateful to know that they've fiercely got each other's backs even when Mom's is turned! :o)
Blessings,
Shannon