Monday, June 9, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: We Choose Virtues

A Virtue, according to Miriam Webster, means a "morally good behavior or character." That is certainly something I want to instill in my children and something very much needed in society in general. We Choose Virtues was created to help with just that. Using memorable catchphrases for every virtue they help children not only learn what a virtue is, but what it means to actually be virtuous.

We had the opportunity to review the parenting cards and a few of their other products in the past. These were a wonderful tool and really helped my daughter, who happens to have special needs. It has been a great success and these phrases are still used in our home to this day. Since we had such a positive experience with them I was eager to review the Youth Virtue Journal now that Gess is becoming a teen.


Along with the journal you also get these downloadable PDF files: Youth Mentor's Handbook, Youth Character Assessment, and List of Scriptures and Bible Heroes. I was also given the Mentor Meeting Report PDF.

The Youth Virtue Journal is for youth between the ages of 12-18 and sells for $17.00. It was actually prepared for a state court system to use in its mentoring program and has not been changed or adapted for a home environment. Therefore the handbook, while interesting and motivating to encourage one to mentor, doesn't really help a parent working with their own child at home. While you learn a little bit about the lay out of the journal in the guide it is mostly tips about mentoring in general and offers very few specifics about how to use the journal itself. If you have a journal in your hand and are working with your own child, it is not very useful. However, I have found some of the advice inside the manual useful when ministering to children that I work with at church.

The Youth Virtue Journal covers 9 of the 12 virtues that the children sets do. I am not sure why they omit diligent, kind, and self-controlled. Working with middle school kids at church, I can tell you that self-control is greatly needed in this age group. Still, the virtues they do cover are important and include: attentive, content, forgiving, gentle, helpful, honest, obedient, perseverant, and respectful.

They use similar, though different catchphrases and antonyms. It is important that a child knows what being virtuous is as well as what being virtuous is not so I like that they include both. That way if a child sees that behavior in themselves they can recognize if it is or is not in line with being virtuous.


The journal is bound nicely, has thick glossy pages, and will hold up to a youth who doesn't take very good care of things. However, it has this dark, mechanical, robotic theme that I don't really care for.

There are two sections to the journal. The virtue journal is in the front, but during each lesson it has you go to the dream journal which is in the back. There are also pages to send home to the parent so again, they are good if you are using with a mentor, but not if you are working with your own child.

They begin each section by having the student write down in their dream journal first. Instead of writing about the dream, they simply have room to write a single word or phrase to state what their dream is. The rest of that section asks them to analyze it and consider what it will take to reach that dream. They discuss obstacles in the way, virtues that might help them obtain it, and a place to record when that dream was realized.

I really struggled with this part of the journal for two reasons. One was because of my daughter's special needs she doesn't really understand abstract dreams or goals, so this was difficult for her to do. To her a dream is something you have when you go to sleep. Even if we use the word goal, she doesn't have any. She hardly even knows what she wants for her birthday or Christmas!

The other problem was with the concept itself. To me, it seems contradictory to suggest that one should use virtues for selfish reasons. Morally good behavior would suggest that you do something even if it does not benefit you personally. I feel as if they are trying to motivate the child by suggesting that virtuous behavior will "pay off" in the end. I understand that it is good to point out how your behavior can and will affect the outcome, but I did not think this method was a good approach for doing that, so we didn't focus on this much.

Each chapter is divided into sections. You begin by discussing the catchphrase and antonym. After that you have several chapter segments where they reflect and respond to the virtue. The first is to go write in their dream journal. After you "take a moment to dream" you come the section in the "Take a look at me now."

Now this part I thought was really great. They give you 14 questions to ask yourself about the virtue you are discussing. It gets you to think about just how much you either possess or lack that quality. I found them really appropriate for self examination. For being attentive you get a few like:

Do I observe the world around me...or am I too distracted by entertainment?
Have people tuned me out because I talk too much?

Some of the questions for Obedience are:

Do I only obey when the consequences are harsh enough to force me?
Am I cheerful when asked to help or do I mope and sulk?

After answering these 14 questions you place where you think you are on a scale from 1-10.


While there is a place for it in the journal, there is also an assessment chart that has all of them on it. They can do this before they start and then later to evaluate if they have improved at all.


Then they have the "Take a look around" section which is also good and builds on the assessment. It has you look at others around you and see how this virtue, or lack of it, has affected your relationship with them. You might be asked who do you know with that virtue and what impresses you about them?  Has anyone ever hurt you by not using that virtue and if so are you willing to forgive them?

Next is "Take some good advice" which is full of quotes from various people both past and present. This section had quotes from people from different countries, backgrounds, political views, and belief systems. It has a couple of quotes from the bible but attributed them to the author of the quote rather than the reference. They even have quotes from fictional characters like Dr. Suess. While most of them were alright, I was not thrilled to find a quote from Homer Simpson in the mix. Even if the quote might have been fitting, the character speaking it is not one I would use to promote virtue in any format.


After that the student is to write down what advice you, the mentor, give them. This is all up to you and what you think needs to be said. You are not instructed or told what to share at this point, probably because it will vary based upon the needs you see in your mentee.  This is when I would refer to the memory verse and bible lesson worksheet they included. To me this was the best part of the whole experience even though it wasn't in the journal itself. When Gess was studying "I am Perserverant" we learned in Nehemiah about how Judah rebuilt the wall of the temple even though they were under attack and opposition from all sides. "Keeping one hand on the work and the other on their weapon," they completed the task! (Nehemiah 4:17) Now that is an example of perseverance!


Then they have the student take time to reflect and respond to what they learned and are supposed to commit to actually living out the virtue by putting their name within the catchphrase.

While I love the concept of We Choose Virtues and consider their children's kits extremely beneficial, I was disappointed in the Youth Journal. While it may serve a purpose for at risk youth in a court system, it did not really suit our needs for use at home.

To learn more about the Youth Virtue Journal as well as their Parenting Cards visit the We Choose Virtue website. They are currently offering some great discounts right now.

For MAY-JUNE use Promo Code: BIG50 for 50% off their set of 12 11x17 Kids of VirtueVille Posters


Or for JUNE-AUGUST use Promo Code BTS20 for 20% off anything in their We Choose Virtues Store.

Also be sure to see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about their products by clicking on the banner below.

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1 comment:

Lisa M. (aka. Lisa @ Farm Fresh) said...

Thank you for your honest review! I was very curious about the journal and whether or not we would have liked it.

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