Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TOS Review - We Choose Virtues

Reputation is what men and women think of us;
Character is what God and angels know of us.
Thomas Paine


When you look at Classic movies like Pollyanna or The Secret Garden one thing that sticks out is the character of the children. They are not perfect, but they are polite, kind, patient and obedient. Today there is almost an expectation to find children (and adults alike) who behave contrary to these character traits. We live in such fast and impatient societies that great virtues like these almost seem out of place. 

We all have room for improvement and I want our family to have character that will please God and lead to a good reputation.

Heather McMillan noticed the lack of self-control and perseverane amongst others in children in her care. Her heart was to help children to change and develop better skills and greater character which is long-lasting. Out of her passion to see kids develop their personal potential she created We Choose Virtues, a company with a team that is working together to produce products to help parents like you and me instill great character in our children. This is from the website:
"We Choose Virtues is not unit study that you use once and then move on from. It is actually a character development tool that you use  every day, every year. You introduce the Virtues, then demonstrate them, memorize the catchphrases, then learn the antonyms, then capture teachable moments when they are being used…or aren’t. You will be amazed how fast you will all learn to obey (not just learn what obedience is, but actually learn to obey!)…and 11 other Virtues too! There are 13 Parenting Cards, one card is the Butterfly and Caterpillar Card. It teaches that everyone was born able to change."

I especially like the last sentence: ...everyone was born able to change... 
To demonstrate this, We Choose Virtues uses the 'From Caterpillar to Butterfly' analogy. 

The tools include characters who represent the different virtues with a catchphrase for each virtue as well as antonyms for the virtues. 

It is very exciting to read the ABOUT section on their website to learn more about the team behind these products. 

As part of the TOS Review Crew I recently received the latest product of We Choose Virtues. The Virtue Clue Cards was sent to me free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion about this product. There was no other compensation.

The product:
There are many tools the company offers to help in character training including posters, teacher handbooks, assessments and memory verses among others. The products are aimed at various ages (kids - 3-11, youth - 12-18) as well as different groups (faith based or community / school and homeschool). Visit the product page HERE to see all the tools available.

I received a set of the Virtue Clue Cards which includes 13 brightly coloured cards including 12 virtue cards. Each card is a different colour and features a "I am" statement of a virtue, a virtue character (lovely colourful graphics), catchphrase, antonyms that you are NOT and a challenge on the opposite side. These cards are aimed at kids from 3 -11 years old. 


I am Attentive

The price:
Currently the set of Virtue Clue Cards retails for US$5.99 (a 25% discount off the usual US$7.95)

The procedure (or how we used it):
The kids were very eager to look at the cards and read them all in the car. They went through each virtue and commented on how well they managed each virtue. The challenge on 9 of the 12 cards starts with "Choose to go the whole day ..." The kids especially commented on which of the virtues they have been able to practice the whole day. 

We read through different virtues several mornings and talked about why the specific virtues are important as well as the consequences of not using those virtues. We read through the memory verses and the kids chose which virtue to work on for the day. It is amazing how kids rise to a challenge specifically when they choose it themselves. 

These cards will definitely remain part of my everyday training of the kids (as well as a challenge to myself). One of the things I like about We Choose Virtues is that it offers a Family Character Assessment (this is available as a free download HERE). Each member of the family assesses where he/she is at regarding a certain virtue (1 (not so good) to 10) and then chooses which virtues to work on. 


I believe it is important for our children to know that we need to change too! (and it is fun for them to point out to mum that she needs to be more patient!)

I also received a downloadable colouring book (retails for US$3.00) with a page for each character to colour in, 


as well as a 56-page Teacher's Handbook as a PDF download. The handbook suggests different ways to use some of the tools in a classroom or homeschool setting and also suggests some activities that can be done with the children to emphasise certain virtues. Currently the Teacher's Handbook retails for US$4.99 for the PDF and US$19.99 for the hardcopy.


The promo codes and specials:
For the months of January/February the 100 Days of Virtue Poster and Stickers will be included FREE with any Homeschool Kit purchase.

See the CLEARANCE category HERE for discounts (while stock lasts).

Here are two promo codes you can use. These codes can only be used ONE AT A TIME.

  • VIRTUE15 for 15 % off the shopping cart
  • SHIPFREE for free worldwide shipping

We Choose Virtues is a product which will be an asset to any home! Check them out on FaceBook HERE.

As with any review this was my personal opinion and one of many. You can read  HERE what my fellow Crew Mates thought of the We Choose Virtue Clue Cards! 


Saturday, January 14, 2012

TOS Review - The Story of Swan Lake

The Story of Swan Lake cd cover
DISCLAIMER:  As part of the TOS Review Crew I received a FREE copy of "The Story of Swan Lake" on cd in exchange for my honest, personal opinion. I did not receive any other compensation (unless you count enjoyment).

"The Story of Swan Lake" is a product form Maestro Classics'TM "Stories in MusicTM" series. 
It is suggested for children ages 6+ and their families (but I think even those younger than 6 can enjoy this).
This product (the cd) retails for US$16.95, but is also available as a MP3 download for US$9.98.

Now if you don't like ballet (and I can't imagine why not) then, please DON'T RUN a mile when you read the words: "Swan Lake"! This is NOT the ballet, but a beautiful story about a prince who falls in love with a princess (who has been turned into a swan). Only his love for her can free her from the spell she is under. This story is read to the inspiring music of Tchaikovsky. The cd however does not only contain the story of 'Swan Lake' but several other tracks as well (stay tuned for more information).

My children and I LOVE the music of Tchaikovsky so I was thrilled when I was chosen for this review. We waited anxiously for the arrival of the cd of "The Story of Swan Lake" and finally it came. The package was well wrapped so ripping was out of the question. Scissors! Finally the cd was freed from the bubble wrap and safely in my hands. 


The first thing I noticed was the bright, colorful graphics (as if in a story book) on the outer and inside covers. The bold colors and fairy-like pictures invited me to open the cover and to reveal it's contents. A cd (yes, I know, we all expected that) AND a booklet! (Did not expect that!)

The booklet contains the following:

  • A dot-to-dot picture.
  • A maze.
  • A crossword puzzle.
  • The beginning of The Story of Swan Lake, typed up with pictures substituting some words.
  • Lyrics and music score to a sing-a-long song you will hear on track 5.
  • Interesting Facts about Tchaikovsky.
  • Interesting information about the people who made this cd possible (composer, producer & narrator & Joe Stump who plays Speed Metal Swan ... now don't look so confused).
  • Information on two different kinds of guitars.
  • Something about Majors (not the military kind) and Minors (not kids).

Hear and enjoy:

The cd has 7 tracks which includes a total playing time of just over 54min. The story itself is 33:16.

The music of Tchaikovsky is skillfully played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the creator of Stories in MusicTM, Stephen Simon, while the story of Swan Lake is eloquently told by Yadu aka Dr. Konrad Czynski (track 1). Bonnie Simon (Co-creator and Executive Producer of Stories in MusicTM) is the elucidator (I had to look up the word) who enlightens us about Tchaikovsky's life (track 2). 
Track 3 was a bit of a surprise, but a pleasant one. It is a more up-tempo, heavy metal version!! of the well known 'Swan Lake op. 20'.
In Track 4, Maestro Simon tells us more about the music.
Tracks 5-7 are dedicated to learning a sing-a-long song composed and written by Mr. & Mrs Simon.

The one and only negative comment I heard form the kids about this cd was that the voice of the narrator was very monotonous. However, this did not stop them from listening to the story several times (including twice in a row on some days)! I thought that the narration could have been done a bit faster with more inflection, but it grows on you and we've listened to the cd many times.

Track 3 was a definite favourite and the kids enjoyed listening to the story of Tchaikovsky (track 4).

You can follow this link HERE and listen to a section of all 7 tracks!


This cd (with the booklet) makes for great learning and if you add the amazing information on the website you cannot go wrong in purchasing this product. 

The website contains an Education Materials section wich includes curriculum guides specifically for homeschoolers (covering all subjects for pre-school to middle school), music lesson plans (grades 1-5) and home projects!

Stories in MusicTM Series include:
  1. Peter and the Wolf
  2. The Story of Swan Lake
  3. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
  4. Casey at the Bat
  5. Juanita the Spanish Lobster (English & Espanol)
  6. The Sorcerer's Apprentice
  7. A Soldier's Tale
  8. My Name is Handel
  9. Tortoise and the Hare
Like with any other product, mine is one opinion of many. Visit the Crew Blog HERE to read what my fellow Crew Mates thought of this product.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Blayne Rocks!!!

Ok, so my family is amazing,

SEE !!!!!!


my family


Now just to let you know that my man has a website - check it out here

Thursday, January 5, 2012

TOS Review - Spanish


Relax - Yes, I can do that.
Enjoy - Yes, I can do that too.
Aspire - Yes, I like that word. I can do that.
Learn Spanish .... WHAT? Learn Spanish ... mmm...

'Dora the Explorer' comes to mind. Her short hair cut and her BIG eyes. She seems RELAXed, she does seem to ENJOY life. I guess she does ASPIRE to help those around her. She is SPANISH.

My daughter was THRILLED TO BITS when we were chosen to review this product because she just LOVED Dora and has wanted to learn Spanish since the first time she saw it on television (several years ago).

As a member to the TOS Review Crew I received a digital copy of the Book Bundle and the Daily Curriculum Guide from R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish for free in exchange for my honest opinion of this product. I received no other compensation other than that of a VERY happy girl.

So what is R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish?

R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish is a full Spanish curriculum which focusses on learning conversational Spanish. It is written by a homeschool mum (Dr Karyn Williamson-Coria) specifically for homeschool families. (You can read more about her HERE) This curriculum is aimed at the whole family and is easily adaptable to suit different age groups. 

The bottom line:

Sometimes it is fun to eat your desert first. To do things a bit differently, I am going to START with the PRICE for this product instead of leaving it until last.

I looked up how much it will cost me to send one of my children to a particular language school. This particular school charges NZ$250 for a 10 week course for a one hour lesson each week. This is US$198.

R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish curriculum is set out with a 10 Unit, 48 week schedule. This would then be about US$950 if charged at the same price as this NZ Language School. But RELAX, because you will save yourself a bit of money learning Spanish with R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish as this will cost you NOT US$950, but US$49.95 for the digital version (although those in North Carolina need to add 7.25% tax) and US$89.95 for the hard copy (7.25% tax for North Carolina). At this time though the hard copy is only available for those residents of the US. 

The actual product:

As mentioned, this product is available in digital format and hard copy. 

The Book Bundle includes:

Book (with all the lessons and teaching tips) - PDF format for digital copy.
Activity and answer books - PDF format for digital copy.
Audio for book - MP3 files for digital copy. CD for hard copy.
Audio for activity book - MP3 files for digital copy. CD for hard copy.

You can also purchase a Daily Curriculum Guide [both digital (PDF) and hard copy] in addition to the above. (This is an added US$10), but well worth it!

I received the Digital version and it was a piece of cake to download. The Bundle downloads as a ZIP file with everything you need included. The product works on all operating systems (OSX, Windows, Linux) and I had no problems with downloading, accessing or opening any of the files.  

It mentions on the website that a High School Supplement is on its way.

What is in this bundle?

The Book with the lessons:

The 105-page lesson book contains 10 Units.

Quoted from the R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish Website
Units include among others:
  • Greetings
  • Colours & Num6er5
  • Food
  • Family
  • Seasons

The Activity Book:

The 179-page activity book includes word searches, puzzles, fill in the blanks, cryptograms and much, much more. 

The Daily Curriculum Guide:

The Daily Curriculum Guide is a 50-page pdf with a day by day, week by week plan to teach this curriculum. It takes the 'what shall I do today' and / or hours of planning out of the equation (so that you can RELAX and ENJOY!) Although the curriculum and guide are written with a full 48 week plan it is easy to be flexible and change the pace at which you work. This could be a full year's curriculum or you can make it shorter or longer depending on your child. 

I HIGHLY recommend the Daily Curriculum Guide as a necessary extra. I'm so glad that was included in the package as it made my life so much easier not having to decide how to teach this or what to teach on a specific day. This is filled with different ideas on how to make Learning FUN. 

My kids did not use hand puppets for the dialogues, but used their Lego Men and Pencils. We greeted each other in Spanish in the morning and found pictures on the web and assign phrases to it. Here is something I made to help us remember some of our phrases and words:


When you purchase a copy of this product you also receive a monthly e-newsletter with fun information, tongue twisters and links to sites that will broaden your knowledge of Spanish regions!

R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish has a Website which is very informative with links to different sites which add to your ENJOYment of learning Spanish.

You can have a look at some free samples of the books HERE

If you want to hear it 'from the horse's mouth', the ABOUT section on the website describes in much detail why the Author wrote this curriculum and what it entails.

You can purchase it HERE.

Did we like it?

My darling daughter enjoyed it more than my son partly because she was so very keen on learning Spanish. My son was a bit disappointed because it did not include video clips of the Spanish Teacher explaining concepts. But the disappointment soon disappeared when we listened to the audio phrases and had fun repeating those. It was honestly not a drag getting the kids to sit down (or lie down) for the Spanish lesson for the day. We are going to be making a board game over the next week ... FUN! So YES, we enjoyed (and are still enjoying) it. 

As always this is my personal opinion about this product. If you are keen to look at what other reviewers think of this product please go the this page HERE


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sweet words from my boy

I just HAVE to share this.

Today, I was getting ready to work in the garden so put on my cut off jeans, singlet top and tied up my hair into a high pony tail. My sweet 8 year old boy came in from the pool saying; "You like nice mum". Then he stopped and said, "You look like a teenager mummy". Now if that's not a compliment! Getting a second look from my boy : )


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year friends.

It is now 22:37 on Sunday, January 1st, 2012 in New Zealand. We are at the end of the first day of the New Year.

A new week, a new month, a new year. 

May this year bring peace that passes understanding, strength to graciously face our difficulties, grace to our neighbours and joy. All gifts and mercies from God.

This morning in church I thought of the hymn 'Be Thou my Vision'. This is my prayer for 2012. That God will truly be my all.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.