{Review} We Choose Virtues

Character. It's an important thing. It's also something that is often overlooked. If you take a look around you it's not hard to see that character development and education takes a backseat to many so-called more important things. But when it comes down to it your character is who you are. You may be the most intelligent, the most talented, the most beautiful person in the world, but if you are not a good person, a virtuous person, a person of good character all of those positives will be overshadowed. As parents, it's our duty to instill these values in our children. To make sure they grow up to be honest, caring, hardworking, etc. And that is where We Choose Virtues can help.

We Choose Virutes was created by Heather McMillian out of a desire to teach children how to reach their personal potential. How to help them change not only their actions but their attitudes as well. Her program consists of 12 virtues- combined with easy to remember catchphrases and antonyms- that effectively teach children and give parents and teacher the tools and language to help guide them in their journey.

What I Recieved:

For the purpose of my review I was sent a set of Virtue Flash Cards (secular edition), a sample Parenting Card, the downloadable Teacher's Handbook, a PDF of The Kids of VirtueVille Coloring Pages, and the free download of the Family Character Assessment.


How We Used the Product:

We Choose Virtues is suitable for early-childhood up through elementary ages, so Rylan is my only child outside this age-range. (Though, he can definitely use some extra character development, so he participated too!)

We started by going over each of the virtues by looking at the flashcards and reading the catchphrases and antonyms, and discussing any new vocabulary or things they didn't quite understand. Then I gave each of them a copy of the Family Character Assessment. We went down the list and they gave themselves a score for each virtue. When they were done we went back down the list as a group. I asked them harder questions and brought up certain hypothetical situations. For the most part they did very well in their assessments.

Then they each chose a virtue to work on during the week. I also asked them to memorize the words on the card. We tried to come together at least once a day to discuss how they had found ways to exercise their virtue. I also gently reminded them when I saw that particular virtue being ignored. The parenting cards come with many suggestions for activities that will help make the virtues stick, and the flash card set also give a couple different little games to play to help keep the virtues in your mind. Both of those were nice additions to help us learn the virtues.

The Bottom Line: 

This product is well-made, kid friendly and gets the job done. What I liked most about the product:
  • I appreciate that there are different versions available. (NIV, King James and Secular) I had seen this product in the past and didn't realize there was a secular version available. 
  • The materials are high-quality. The illustrations are beautiful and a lot of care was taken to ensure that the materials would be ones that draw children in. 
  • I love the catchphrases and antonyms. It's one thing to define a virtue, but by telling what it is NOT takes the learning that one step further. 
  • I love that the material gives the parent the words and tools to help their child. We all want our children to grow up to have good character, but sometimes it can be hard to find the right words or you begin to feel like the bad guy all the time. This product is a great help in both those areas.
Cost is probably one of the only downsides to this program. The materials are well worth the cost, but many times families on a budget just can't justify that cost. Thankfully, there are some options to help make the program a little more accessible.

If you can't afford the whole kit, you can still get started by purchasing some of the individual parts. If nothing else just get the Virtue Flash Cards ($14.99)or even the Virtue Clues ($5.50) both of which have the virtues, catch phrases and antonyms on them and can be used in many different ways. If you are interested in purchasing an entire kit, you can use the promo code HOME20 to receive 20% of the Homeschool Kit through the month of April.

To make We Choose Virtues even more accessible, Heather is offering 15% off any order! Just use the promo code Virtue15.


A Tribute to David

 A sad thing happened last night when we went to lock up the chickens. Every night we feed them, count them and lock them up. Over the past few months we've lost a few due to a fox that hangs around during the day. And every day I hoped that no more would be missing, but I especially hoped that the favorites- Helen, Ping and David- would be there. And last night, David didn't come home.

David came to us last year as a replacement for Cohen's hen, Prunella, that got nabbed when she got left outside overnight. He was supposed to be a hen. But as he grew, the size of his feet alone told us that he was a rooster instead.

But Cohen loved that bird. He held him all the time and David turned out the be one of the tamest roosters I've ever seen. If you picked him up, he would sit with you until you put him down. He didn't mind being held and never showed once ounce of aggression towards us.

He was also one of the best roosters I have ever seen. Before we got rid of a couple of our not-so-nice roosters, he would stand guard over the hens and chase off any offenders. He would call the hens to him when he found treats to eat. And every afternoon he took a walk around the pasture with a group of his hens and a duck.  He walked along the road, while the hens stayed in the ditch pecking around. He was everything you would want in a rooster.

He was a good rooster. And Cohen, who takes any chicken death hard, was pretty upset. And even though losses like this are part of farm life, it was a very sad loss for all of us.

And he will be missed.

This post is linked to the HomeAcre Hop, The Homestead Barn Hop,


Kidding 2013: Jack and Jill

 Last year on March 24, it was a sunny and warm day. We were working on the fences in t-shirts and shorts and Bertie was in labor about to deliver her first set of kids. That labor was easy and smooth, and I am grateful that my first kidding experience was easy and uneventful. It prepared me for this March 24th, in which the kidding was not quite so easy....

I woke up yesterday to Cale at my bedside asking if a goat is standing with her head shoved against the wall means she's going to have the babies soon. I said yes and went to check. She was in labor. Early stages, but it was going to be that day. Cale and Cohen spent a lot of time watching that day. So did the chickens, who wanted to lay their eggs in her hay. It was not warm and sunny like last year, it was rainy and cold and windy. But we checked on her every hour or so until about 2:00 when she started to push and the amniotic sack was visible- though I will spare you the picture of that...

Jack getting clean

We thought it would be soon, but an hour passed, with the boys eagerly watching, and still not much of a change. The sack eventually burst and she laid down in the hay, pushed a couple times and then her contractions seemed to stop. I sent the boys inside, telling them I would call when I saw feet.  Another hour passed. I was cold, sitting under the heat lamp googling stalled labor on my phone. Eventually I forced her to stand back up and a few minutes later her labor started up again and I could see the tips of the hooves. Cale, who had been the most excited to help with the labor, made it back into the barn.

Once she started to really push, I could see we were going to have a bit of a problem, I just wasn't sure what that problem was yet. What I could see was 2 hooves and a bit of the nose. But one was a front foot and one was a back foot. When she contracted I could see the tip of the second front foot. I tried to rearrange so the front foot came before the back, but honestly had no real clue how or what to do. I sent Cale in to have Paul do my googling for me and once again I forced her to get up in hopes that she could get the babies rearranged a bit better in that position. It worked and as the first kid came further out I realized that it wasn't his back foot, but the second kid's. They were both trying to come at once.

Jill finally arrives!

The first kid, Jack, was delivered. His face cleared and cleaned with the help of towels and Bertie's tongue. Cale held the heat lamp over him as he squirmed and tottered and tried to stand. It was cold, and we needed to get him dry fast.  Bertie is a very good mother and is very thorough when it comes to cleaning her babies. I, on the other hand, was much more in a rush for her to get back to delivering her second baby, because it's back 2 feet up to the knees were hanging out of her.

Cale kept Jack warm while Bertie delivered Jill

Jack was up and had attempted to nurse when the contractions finally started up again. Breech babies aren't the optimal position for kidding, but it's not as big of a deal as it is for people. And Jill was delivered breech with out any issues. We got her cleaned up too and waited around until she was almost walking and had nursed as well.

By this time my brother and his wife, Lili, had made it home. Paul brought Annika out to meet the babies. The boys all made their appearances to see them. We set about making the shed as secure as possible. It's rather drafty, so we filled holes with towels, wood and hay. Secured the heat lamp. And hoped the temperatures would not dip too cold in the night.

This morning, everyone is doing fine. Despite the snow flakes blowing and cold wind. Bertie keeps the babies under the lamp and blocks the wind by sitting in front of them.

It's supposed to be cold for the next 3 days, but hopefully by the time June delivers it will be much more spring-like! And hopefully, her delivery will be much less eventful!

This post is linked to the HomeAcre Hop, Homestead Barn Hop,


FamilyMint Money Management Program Review

I have often mentioned how important I think life skills are and how many kids grow up unprepared for life outside of their parent's home. But one of the most overlooked life skill is money management. Parents forget to teach their children smart money skills like how to budget or balance a checkbook. And I will admit, here at our house we haven't really done a lot of talking yet about managing money. We don't give allowance here, but the kids get money as gifts, earned from extra jobs and their fair prizes. They have savings accounts. We encourage them to really think about their purchases when they want something. But that is about all we've done so far. Until now. 

I was asked to use and review the FamilyMint Money Management Certification Program and when the workbook arrived I was pretty pleased with the first impression. It's a simple workbook- designed for kids ages 10 and up, though I used it with all 4 of my boys (ages 5-11)- and is meant to help teach kids key money management skills that they can carry with them the rest of their lives. But the workbook is only part of the program. They also include an online application that looks and feels just like the online banking systems we adults use all the time.  

They cover topics like keeping track of your money- in which the kids learn how to fill out checks, deposit slips and keep a register. My kids loved this- there is something about writing a check for millions of dollars that is exciting!

And they cover making SMART goals. It was at this chapter that I really could see the wheels turning for my oldest son. He's mentioned a few goals over the past few months and by using the online application he could really start to see that they were actually attainable if he used his money wisely. He spent a lot of time breaking down his goals into smaller pieces and seeing how much money he would need to save per week to get what he wanted. I also appreciated the 2 versions- junior and advanced- where he could work in more detail that his younger brothers. 

When we got to the budgeting chapter, I began to see some of the weaknesses of my younger kids. Even though some of it has to do with maturity, they tend to be more careless with their money. My oldest again took a long time creating his envelopes- putting in his goals and even a gift fund to make sure he would have enough to buy birthday and holiday gifts for his friends and family.

The bottom line? I would definitely recommend this program. It's a simple but effective way to teach the essential money skills we need as adults. Some of the best things about this program are:
  • The workbook can be used by itself or with the online application. When we went over the chapters we used the book exclusively. But once we were done the kids logged on to their accounts to put what they learned into action. You don't have to use the computer at all to use this program.
  • It's versatile. You can use this program in many ways as a tool to learn budgeting. You can use real money, and you can use it as a way to keep track of reward points for school work, good grades, chores, etc. The more the kids see and practice using these skills the better. 
  • It's personal. The kids are tracking their money and making their goals. That alone makes it much more effective than a hypothetical situation from math or accounting class. 
If you are interested in trying out FamilyMint for yourself they have a couple different pricing options that will satisfy almost any budget. You can visit their pricing page to see those options.  I would highly recommend the introductory bundle which includes the workbook and a lifetime subscription to the online application. I think the pairing of both of these things together are really what make this product shine.


The Kidding Kit

You can now find this post on my other site, The Free Range Life. Here is the link to The Kidding Kit.


On Growing Garden Peas

You can now find this post on my other site, The Free Range Life. Here is the link to How to Grow Peas.


The Virtual Art Show

 I've posted before how my boys love to enter the local state and country fairs each year. Normally they enter only a few choice categories, but this year they have set their goals high and want to enter just about everything. So in order to beat the procrastination that tends to run in this house, we have decided to dedicate the month of March to art. The local fair has 15 categories for Art ranging from watercolor to charcoal to mixed media.  So our plan was to do some sort of art, directed by me or self-directed each day. Here is look at some of the projects they worked on this week:

Cohen, Lakin and Cale worked with watercolors and painted these birds.

 We also worked with pen and ink on some Tangles. This is my kind of drawing.

The kids also worked independently on some projects. Cohen was also reminded not leave his half finished art work on the table because a certain little girl of the family will most certainly add her own art to it.

We had a slight set back during the week when Lakin ended up in the ER for stitches. He's doing fine now, with a bruised and sore ear, but it looks to be healing nicely.

Have your kids created any masterpieces this week? Link up below to show them off, I'd love to see them!


Making Progress

More garden progress is being made. Paul and my brother got the wire stretched along the fence this weekend. The boys attempted to help, but with hard locust posts they weren't quite strong enough to hammer in any staples.

With the exception of one walk-thru gate the fence is done. Since our garden is on a hillside, we will have to rig something to keep animals from getting under our 10 ft. drive-thru gate and eventually we will finish the upper side which is currently a weedy, brushy, barbed wire fence row.

This weekend I transplanted all of my tomato seedlings into larger containers, planting them a deeper to help their stems get stronger. We still have about 6-8 weeks until they can go in the ground. 

I also started our peas. Peas do just fine started directly in the ground. But I like to pre-sprout them so I won't have any holes in the pea rows. I've got 300 seeds going and I am still not sure that is enough. I plan to do another round in the fall, but garden peas are the one thing I don't think I could grow enough of. The kids pop them straight from the garden and we never cook them unless we actually get enough to freeze for later. 

Today the kids helped me step off some of the garden beds. I hope to eventually have them raised throughout the garden, but all of that probably won't happen this year. Below is the current plan. Each of the beds is approximately 12' x 30', with the exception of 2 which are smaller due to the apple tree.  I also have 2' pathway between each bed. All of this is subject to change, but for the time being it's what I am going with.

 This post has been linked to the Homestead Barn Hop,