We Choose Virtues (Crew Review)
I think character education is one of the most important jobs a parent has, particularly when our children are young. Laying a foundation of virtue in the early years will help children grow up knowing how be people of good character. We Choose Virtues has created a line of products to help parents and others who work with children equip them for a lifetime of wise choices. I was blessed with the chance to review the Parenting Cards and the pdf products in the Download Bundle from this wonderful program.
What is It?
We Choose Virtues is a “Character Education System” ideal for families and classrooms with children ages 3-18. There are several products in the WCV online store that can be used to implement the program in addition to the ones we received, but the Parenting Cards and the Download Bundle are a great way to use the program at home with children ages 3-11.
The set of Parenting Cards includes 13 colorful 8.5″x5.5″ cards which describe 12 specific virtues: Content, Self-Controlled, Perseverant, Patient, Obedient, Kind, Honest, Helpful, Gentle, Forgiving, Diligent, and Attentive. (The remaining card illustrates the concept of virtues changing us into something more beautiful, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.) The Parenting Cards make up the core of the program in a family setting.
Each card has several components:
- name of the virtue
- catch phrase
- antonyms for the virtue
- Bible verse (We used the cards with the NIrV translation, which includes verses from both the Old and New Testaments. Cards are also available with the KJV translation using only verses from the Old Testament.)
- Virtue User Challenge
- Saying about the virtue
- Instruction on “What to say after ‘I’m sorry'” when this virtue hasn’t been demonstrated
- Teachable moments for families (ideas for activities or discussions)
- short story about the featured “Virtue Kid” (who was pictured on the front side)
Although the Parenting Cards could be used successfully alone, the items in the Download Bundle are helpful additional tools for teaching the virtues. The Download Bundle includes the following items:
- Teacher’s Handbook (This guide seems to be geared more toward classroom teachers, though parts of it could also be helpful for homeschool families. I printed it out thinking it would be beneficial to have it easy to grab and use, but it’s really not something you need to have in your hand as you’re teaching your children. In hindsight I would probably just read it on the computer or tablet.)
- Family Character Assessment (see below)
- Kids of VirtueVille coloring pages
- Butterfly Award (to recognize the transformation you see as your children choose to exercise the virtues)
- Sing-along-Song sheets (lyrics to help you and your children remember the teachings about the virtue, set to familiar tunes)
How We Used It
The first thing we did to introduce the program was fill out the “Family Character Assessment” with Ian (6) and Elijah (4).I printed out two copies, and then Eric and I went through it with them one night during our family Bible Time, reading the brief description of each virtue and rating the boys on each one together. I was surprised at how self-aware they were regarding their strengths and weaknesses, and this was a really special time with them. Afterward we prayed with together and asked God to help us all to grow and learn as we work through our new We Choose Virtues program.
After that I used our morning Bible Time (part of our school day) as the main instruction time. Arianna (2) joined us each morning during this time. We followed the suggestion in the Teacher’s Handbook for taking 10 minutes each day to discuss the virtues. I chose one card at a time and then spent several days focusing on that one. (The recommendation is to spend a week on each virtue, followed by review as necessary. Because we didn’t have 12 weeks for this review, I chose to spend 2-5 days on each one, depending on how familiar my children were with it already, so we could get through most of them.)
Here’s a general outline of what we did for each virtue:
We read everything on the front of the card. I had each child repeat the virtue (“I am content”) and the catch phrase (“I have my ‘WANTER’ under control”). Then we looked up the Bible verse in the ESV (since that’s the translation our family uses most of the time and what we use for memorization).
We reviewed the virtue and the catch phrase. Then I turned the card over and we discussed the section on “What to say after ‘I’m Sorry'” and learned the song for that virtue. (I printed the song sheets out and put them in my notebook with the Teacher’s Handbook, but some children might enjoy coloring these pages as they learn.)
We reviewed the virtue and the catch phrase. Then I read about the character in “The Kids of VirtueVille” section on the back of the card, and we discussed how they reflected that virtue. I gave the kids the option of coloring the page about that kid.
Day 4 (and beyond)
We reviewed the virtue and the catch phrase. Then we focused on the “Virtue User Challenge” or one of the “Teachable moments for… families” and read a story or poem from The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett.
I found that 4 days worked best for us. Any longer and it just seemed like I was harping on them. (Obviously we didn’t stop pointing out ways they were demonstrating or failing to demonstrate a particular virtue just because we’d moved on to another one. I just mean we didn’t spend extra time in the morning talking about it.)
We displayed our Parent Cards in a pocket chart in our school room, where they were highly visible and the kids could take them out to examine. (I laminated them right away so they’d be able to withstand frequent handling.)
The kids really caught on to the catch phrases. One day Elijah came in after playing with some neighborhood children, and he was sad that the only person who’d been willing to share with him was his brother. (Way to go, Ian!) I sympathized with him and then encouraged him to remember how it feels when someone won’t share with him, so he can be sure to share with other people so they won’t feel so sad, saying, “Treat others the way you like to be treated.” He suddenly smiled and said, “That’s what it means to be kind! That’s what our card says.”
What We Liked
My favorite thing about this program is the title: We Choose Virtues. I love that it helps children take responsibility for their behavior. Even before starting this program we talked a lot about good character traits, but I felt like We Choose Virtues really shifted the way I discuss them with my children. They have a choice as to what kind of person they want to be. I can teach them what all these concepts mean, but only they can choose to take ownership of them and decide that they want to be known as a person of virtue. “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right” (Proverbs 20:11). We’ve spent a lot of time discussing that verse.
I also really like the catch phrases. They both help describe the virtue in a succinct way the children understand and help them remember. I can’t count how many times we’ve quoted the phrase for obedience: “OK, whatever you say, I will obey, right away!” We say it cheerfully, in a kind sing-song manner, and it’s more of a silly, fun way of reminding them what we expect, rather than nagging and scolding. I’ve been amazed at how it has helped even one particularly sour-faced child melt into a smile and choose to obey.
Although it took me a while to get used to, I like the format of the Parenting Cards. It is helpful having everything about each virtue in one place without having to turn to a specific page in a book. The character illustrations and the bright colors made them appealing to everyone in the family, and I often caught the children stopping by our pocket chart to look at them and read through the front sides on their own.
What Could Have Been Better for Our Family
I would have preferred more structured guidance in how to present each virtue. The outline I shared above about how we used the Parenting Cards each day was something I came up with after floundering about for the first couple weeks. I kept poring over the Teacher’s Handbook hoping for a bit more instruction, but it was more geared toward classroom use and even then it didn’t lay out even a sample idea of what to do each morning. This is probably because We Choose Virtues isn’t meant to be a curriculum but a “Character Education System” that is implemented throughout the day, but the lack of direction caused me more than a bit of stress as I tried to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I could have used a little more advice on how to get started.
Some of the Virtue User Challenges were way beyond what I could reasonably expect of my children. For example, the challenge for Obedient said, “The entire family should try to go the whole day doing everything you are asked to do with a smile!” My 6-year old could probably make a decent attempt at that, but I would be setting my 2-year old and incredibly strong-willed 4-year old up for failure if I set that challenge before them. These little years are a season of training toward goals like that, but there’s a lot of hard work to put into it before they get there. That kind of thing has to be something they choose to do on their own, and they’re just not to that point yet. Even if they had the desire to try to be completely obedient, I think an hour would be sufficiently challenging for them.
Overall, however, I found this to be a rich program with more ideas than we could use in just the introductory weeks. I anticipate pulling out these cards over and over again in the years to come, repeating discussions and utilizing various ideas as my children grow and mature. It is so helpful to have a reference point for them, and it lends authority to our instruction when they see the virtues described so clearly on the cards. I enjoyed our introduction to We Choose Virtues so much I decided to purchase their Upgrade to a Family Kit, which has some additional items to help make the virtues a more pervasive part of our family culture.
Just the Facts
Interested in try finding out more about how to use We Choose Virtues with your family? Read more Crew Reviews to see what it looks like in other homes (including materials for children ages 12-18). Then check out the products I’ve shared about (and more!) in the We Choose Virtues Store:
Parenting Cards ($38.49)
- includes pdf download of the Family Character Assessment. (The cards are also available in Spanish!)
Download Bundle ($7.99) containing these items, most of which can also be purchased separately:
- Teacher’s Handbook ($5)
- Family Character Assessment (FREE)
- Kids of VirtueVille coloring pages ($3)
- Butterfly Award
- Sing-along-Song sheets ($3)
We Choose Virtues is offering two special promotions right now. Through the end of June, enter promo code BIG50 to save 50% off their set of 12 “Kids of VirtueVille” posters (11×17). They are also having a special Back-to-School promotion this June-August. Enter promo Code BTS20 for 20% off anything in the WCV Store! (One promo code per order.)
Connect With We Choose Virtues on Social Media:
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/wechoosevirtues/
- Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/WeChooseVirtues/
- Blog – http://www.wechoosevirtuesblog.com/