We had the opportunity to try out the Virtue Clue cards and the Kids of Virtue-ville Coloring Book from We Choose Virtues, the brainchild of Heather McMillan (I like her first name!!), a wife, mother of four, preschool teacher and children's pastor. It was born out of her love for children and her desire to see them reach their full potential. As she saw more and more children who lacked self-control, honesty, and perseverance, she wondered how they could possibly succeed without those important traits. Then she wondered what she could do to help them aspire to do better.
Out of this desire to help children learn to not only change their actions and do better momentarily, but to change their whole attitudes and thus their entire lives, she developed the program We Choose Virtues. We Choose Virtues is based on simple, positive, consistent instructions, using catch-phrases and positive reinforcement to help trigger memories of the important, eternal truths that true virtues reveal.
What we did:
We chose a virtue to work on for that week and displayed it on the refrigerator. The Virtue Clue cards come in a clear plastic sleeve, and I hung them up with a heavy-duty clip. I thought it might have been nice if the cards came with a magnetic holder, like the ones you can buy at the Bible bookstore to display inspirational phrases and verses, but then, not everybody will display them like we did.
We discussed each virtue (both its positive attributes and what it is not...ie. being content means that "I have my 'wanter' under control" and that "I am not bored or greedy or always wanting more, and I don't beg or whine." Then we'd check out the catch phrase for that virtue and work on it for a few minutes (our favorite was: "Okay, whatever you say, I will obey, right away" for Oboe Joe and obedience). Lastly, we'd look at the character on the card and try to imagine their story. Since we got the "Clue" cards and not the "Teacher" or "Parent" cards, we did not get the character's stories, so we had to improvise.
We did receive the Teacher's Handbook, which is $4.99 for a downloadable copy. It tells you how to use the program and gives information on each of the available resources. While it appears to be geared towards the classroom teacher (either public or private, since both a general and a faith-based version are sold, as well as Sunday School and Children's Church classes), much of what it suggests is easy to implement in a homeschool setting. The manual gives details about how to develop three important parts of the Virtue Teacher Cards: the definition of the virtue, the catch-phrase, and the antonyms (in the faith-based set, you will also have a Bible verse to accompany each virtue). It also covers why We Choose Virtues chose to use only three rules on their rule chart: Obey, Be Kind, Be a Helper (I liked the simplicity of this, especially for younger kids) and offers suggestions for making these rules fit easily into your day without turning the practice of them an overbearing lesson.
One way to keep track of how your class (or family) is doing in their attempts to be more virtuous is to keep the Family Character Assessment Chart (available for free on the WCV site), the 100 Days of Virtue Chart (SALE $11.99), Personal Virtue Charts (just $2.99 for 16 charts), the Virtue User Review pad (just $3.99 for 50 sheets), or Student Character Assessments (available for FREE! on the WCV site).
Virtues can't be taught in ten minutes a day; they must be consistently modeled and referred to throughout every day. One way to focus on the virtues presented in this program is to color one of the cute characters that represents the virtue. We Choose Virtues offers a coloring book with adorable blackline pictures of each character to color that my Amigos (ages 4-8) liked a lot.
We had the idea that the pictures would make great place mats if you colored each picture neatly (printed on card stock), then wrote examples of ways to practice each virtue on the back, along with the representative catch-phrase and associated Bible verse (as a copywork exercise). You could then either laminate the page, or use one of those great laminating sheets to make it into a mat that your kids would see at every meal. You could give a mat to each child at lunchtime depending on which virtue they most exhibited that morning, OR according to which one they needed to work on the most after lunch. ;-)
Here is what we thought about the program in general:
- The idea of needing more teachers focused on teaching virtues FIRST is a great one. I have always agreed with the statement that if you can't trust your kids (or students) to obey, be attentive, be kind, be diligent, be helpful, etc., then how can you expect to teach them effectively? Much of your time will be wasted handing behavioral problems and conflicts instead of learning, so you might as well do yourself a favor and focus on behavior first.
- IF you already have a program with which you teach your kids virtues (ie. a Bible study, using a character traits chart, teaching your own family rules of behavior, etc.), then you probably don't need this program. You are already teaching virtues, and if your program is working, you should stick with it. (This is our situation, though we did think this product was nice, too). You might use this to supplement an existing program, but it really isn't necessary.
- BUT if you don't have something in place and your kids are young (my 4, 6, and 8 year olds were receptive to the characters and catch-phrases...my 14 yo was not very interested...not surprising), then this program might work well for you. It works for many families (see other TOS Review Crew reviews HERE)...many of the reviews I read were extremely positive and excited.
- I would suggest buying the Faith-based Parenting Cards (so you get the character stories) for $34.99 and the Teacher's Handbook ($4.99 for a download) to start. If your kids are avid colorers, the downloadable coloring book would make an inexpensive, enjoyable addition. Also, I would definitely download the available freebies that I mentioned above. Later, you could add 3 Rules Poster (only $9.99 with shipping available for free with the code SHIPFREE), and The Kid's Virtue Poster (it's $11.99, and using the code FAMILY gets you another $3 off) might be a good investment, if you want all of the memory items in one easy-to-spot location, or you could even consider purchasing the entire Family Faith-based Kit for $69.99 (use the code VIRTUE15 for 15% off your order). I thought that the Virtue Flash cards look like they might be a fun way to practice the virtues, but they are pricey at $19.00 a set. You save some money and get all of what I mentioned above by buying that family kit. Oh, I thought I'd let you know that I noticed that one reviewer of the WCV products went a step farther and made a copywork set available on Currclick which supports the Bible verses found in the faith-based set (for $1.50, I think), if you want to check it out.
- I have to say that I was disappointed to not know the stories of the characters. That made it harder for me and my kids to identify with the program and to really be motivated to color the cute pictures. To us, the names seemed rather odd and random, but I am sure that they make sense if you know the stories behind them. The one or two examples we encountered in the Teacher's Manual or on other blogs were interesting, and I think kids would like them (Airplane Betty Jane is so fascinated by airplanes that she thinks about them constantly and has a hard time being Attentive). I think a good addition to the program would be a series of story books to support these stories. I wonder if that is in the works?? What do you think?
- The activities and suggestions shared in the Teacher's Manual were very good. If you buy one of the sets of cards, you really need to go ahead and get this manual (just pay to download it since that is much cheaper), so you will get full value from your cards.
- There are only twelve virtues (and I do think Mrs. McMillan picked twelve of the best ones), so once you are done with them, I guess you do them over again? This is definitely a solid teaching practice (repetition and reinforcement), but it would be nice if another set of virtues was an option for folks in their second or third years of using this program, or with slightly older students...maybe this is in the works, too? I can see where this program has a lot of potential for growth.
In any case, overall I guess we wish we'd had the Parent's Cards with the stories. I think we would have used the program more (my kids would have been more interested after hearing a story about the characters, I think...though once we concocted our own elaborate stories, they got more into it).
I think the Virtue Clue cards that we tried out are most suitable for folks who already have those Teacher Cards or Parenting Cards and would be good for carrying around in a purse or backpack or car glove box to allow for easy drilling on the go.
I think you could also use single packs of cards to encourage your individual students by giving them one each time they demonstrate ability to consistently apply a virtue over a set period of time until they collect an entire deck (kids today seem to like collecting cards, I am told). I am certain there are many other ways a resourceful parent could find to use this deck of Clue cards.
Lastly, I think this program is an excellent idea for incorporating into Sunday School or Children's Church classes that may teach Bible stories and verses, but maybe do not have a solid character-building program. You can buy a faith-based Classroom starter kit for $99.00. The program would also make a simple introduction to family time for younger children (if you found stories from the Bible for each virtue, such as obedience using Samuel, which is what we did). Family and Homeschool Faith-based Kits start at $69.00. I am thinking of suggesting it to our church for use in the nursery (with the 2-4 year olds...Boo could definitely use some of that Self-Control!!).
- Virtue15 for 15% off of everything in your cart
- FAMILY for $3 off of the Kids Virtue Poster
- SHIPFREE for free worldwide shipping
(sorry, only one code at a time)
And, until the end of February, the 100 Days of Virtue Poster and stickers will be included with any Homeschool Kit purchase!
We received a free set of Virtue Clue Cards, as well as downloads for the coloring book and Teacher's Manual in order to test this product in our homeschool and write this review. What you read here is a reflection of our own experiences with the product and is my own opinion of it. If you have questions about what I have written here, please feel free to comment or contact me.