Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: We Choose Virtues… and a fun GIVEAWAY!

DSC03207

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:

DSC03217

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:

DSC03221DSC03223

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.

DSC03216DSC03219

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.  ;-)