Wednesday, June 11, 2014

We Choose Virtues - Youth Virtue Journal Review

We Choose Virtues Review

We Choose Virtues is a company that was started by Heather McMillan. She has a heart for children and desires to see them change for the better and learn virtues through character education, so she created products that would help children, homeschooled and non-homeschooled, to grow and mature. There are many products available for younger children, but we were given the Youth Virtue Journal since my kids are preteen and teens. This is the exact age group that the Youth Virtue Journal was designed for (12-18). It was originally developed to serve as a guide for youth in the Idaho court system but was transformed into a journal for all youth. Those who want to incorporate Scripture can download the Youth List of Memory Verses and Bible Heroes.

We Choose Virtues Review
As you can see, the journal has a fun, contemporary style in order to attract the preteen/teen crowd. It is not juvenile or cartoonish.

We Choose Virtues Review
This journal covers nine different virtues in 107 pages. They each start by saying, "I am..." and include attentive, content, forgiving, gentle, helpful, honest, obedient, perseverant, and respectful. Each chapter begins with a short explanation of the virtue—what it is and what is not. Kids are encouraged to write in the journals as they answer questions. Every chapter asks them to dream about something and reflect on what might get in the way of achieving that dream. This is exactly the same throughout the entire book. They then have the opportunity to think about or answer a long list of questions related to themselves like, "Do others think of me as a person who interrupts?" and "Am I a bully in words or actions?"

A scale from 1-10 is provided where they can rate themselves based on how they see that virtue at work in their own lives. They can then answer some questions that force them to look outside of themselves. Do they know someone who displays the virtue? Have they ever been negatively affected by someone who didn't display the virtue? The next section provides quotes by a variety of people related to the virtue. Some of these include biblical quotes. The person's name is listed, not the book, to keep it non-religious in nature, secondary to the original purpose of the journal. Again, Scripture can be downloaded to use with the journal.

There are pages where the teen can write answers to some questions and redo the scale; the second time is the virtue goal. They then can sign their names to commit to being perseverant, attentive, forgiving, etc., and not the opposite.

How we used this product: I would either sit with all of my kids, two of my kids, or just one and read through the whole chapter on the virtue. I would ask them each of the questions, but it seemed that some questions were rhetorical (could be because I am their parent) or didn't apply to them. They would rate themselves on the first scale but assumed a 10 was the "right answer" on the second scale that asked where they wanted to be in relation to the virtue. Sometimes they would ask a question or I would think of something else to talk about that related to the specific virtue, so further discussion was a benefit.

Our opinions of this product: I asked my two sons what they thought. Here is what they said: "It had some good tips and had potential, but it seemed repetitive" and "It was interesting and made a lot of sense, but it was repetitive." They were not together when I asked them their opinion, so it was interesting to me that they both thought it was repetitive. I would have to agree. A lot of the same elements are in each chapter. The fact that they had to talk about a life dream, something they wanted to accomplish in each chapter, became very redundant. They weren't sure what they were supposed to say.

Some of the other items that can be downloaded that correspond to the Youth Virtue Journal are the Youth Mentor Handbook, the Mentor Meeting Report Form, and the Youth Character Assessment. The assessment form could be very helpful for seeing the changes in your child, but the report form does not seem to have any function if you are going through the book with your own child. The handbook says, "A mentor is not a parent either...they don't have any direct authority in the young person's life..." I'm not sure what to do with that. On the one hand, everything that book says a mentor is can also apply to parents. On the other hand, is it saying that I shouldn't use this book with my own kids? The mentor handbook has some useful things to say, even if you are using the journal with your own children.

I have mixed feelings about this product. It is a high-quality product. I really like the quotes that are included and the graphics. It is obvious that Heather McMillan truly wants to help youth change their lives, and many of today's youth need to learn virtues. I don't know if it works well, though, for homeschool families. While there is a verse and Bible heroes page that can be downloaded, I almost feel like deeper reflection into someone who possesses the virtue (Bible character or someone from recent times) would be more helpful. I can see how troubled teens could benefit from pausing to reflect on themselves and people around them. However, I think I'd like something meatier to work through with my kids if I were going to pay for it.
The Youth Virtue Journal comes in paperback and retails for $17.00, but We Choose Virtues has some special sales going on this summer:

1. MAY-JUNE: *Promo Code BIG50 for 50% off our amazing set of 12 11x17 Kids of VirtueVille Posters! This is the first time we have ever offered these posters at this price. They are great for school classrooms, Kids Church, or your homeschool room. Kids love them for their bedrooms, bathrooms and kids’ hallways.

2. JUNE-AUGUST: *Promo Code BTS20 for 20% off anything in our WCV Store. This includes any product for kids or youth. Let’s start School with Virtues this year!

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