Tag Archives: character

Happy Kids Songs (Crew Review)

Looking for a fun way of teaching character education?  You might be interested in the children’s music we recently received from Happy Kids Songs.  We were given three albums to review: Friends & Sharing, Manners & Character, and Happiness & Attitude, as well as the Happy Kids Songs Workbook: Hands-on Activities to Build Character, Social & Emotional Skills.

Happy Kids Songs Collage

What is it?

Happy Kids Songs is a series of children’s albums created by Don MacMannis (aka “Dr. Mac”), a child psychologist and award-winning songwriter.  The songs are intended to teach character as well as social and emotional skills that will help kids make choices that will lead to happiness and success. The website has links to download the music through either iTunes or amazon.com.  Each mp3 album contains 5 songs (downloadable separately or as a set).  Here are the songs on the three albums we got a chance to review: Happy Kids Songs ReviewFriends & Sharing (#1)

  • Sailing on the Seven C’s
  • Everybody Wants to Find a Friend
  • Sharing Friends
  • Happy as Happy Can Be
  • Together

Happy Kids Songs ReviewManners & Character (#6)

  • H-o-n-e-s-t-y
  • Quirks
  • Six Little Kids
  • The Golden Rule
  • The Magic Word

Happy Kids Songs ReviewHappiness & Attitude (#7)

  • Be Good to Yourself
  • Better Together
  • I Don’t Understand
  • Shake It Out and Dance
  • Who Knows What’s a Kudo?

Other albums in the series cover Social Skills & Bullying (#2), Feelings and Fears (#3), Practice and Success (#4), Talking and Listening (#5), and Respect and Responsibility (#8). Happy Kids Songs ReviewThe companion workbook goes along with the songs from all the albums and has two main sections.  The first includes lyrics to the songs as well as activity pages (e.g. word searches, dot-to-dots, and coloring pages). The second part of the book contains suggestions of other learning activities related to each song, mostly designed for larger groups of children. The copyright allows you to reproduce the workbook pages for a co-op or in a classroom. Everything in the softcover workbook is actually available for FREE on the Happy Kids Songs website, but purchasing the workbook saves the trouble of downloading and printing the 80 files individually.

Our Experience with Happy Kids Songs

At first, we just listened all the way through the 15 songs we were given.  Dr. Mac talks about “seeding” the songs with kids, just getting them familiar with them before discussing the meaning.  After this initial exposure, we focused on just one or two songs at a time to addressing specific things that came up with our kids.

It was really helpful to have the lyrics so we could follow along and break down the songs during our discussion.  Once we talked through the words, my kids (well, the 4- and 6-year olds, at least) were able to listen more carefully and sing along.

I think Happy Kids Songs are a wonderful resource for parents (or teachers).  Each song teaches a valuable lesson, and the albums are a great addition to any character education program.  Here are a few of my favorite songs:

  • “6 Little Kids” tells the story of 6 children who close their eyes and try to describe an elephant based on what they can feel in front of them.  Each one describes something very different.  Sometimes it is tempting to think someone is wrong for seeing a situation differently, but it’s important to remember that we each have a unique perspective.
  • “The Golden Rule” relays Jesus’ classic advice to “Just do to others what you would like them to do to you.”  How many times a day do I remind my children of this?  Having a song to sing helps me keep the message fresh so they don’t just tune me out.
  • “Shake it Out and Dance” addresses the issue of “I can’t.”  I have one child who says this constantly, and I’m working really hard to break the habit.  The song is a fun reminder that it’s better to try than to just hold back by saying, “I can’t.”

I also really like the workbook.  My kids love the activity pages in the first section, but I found the second half of the book to be most valuable part of the whole program.  There are so many great suggestions for helping teach the lesson of each song.  For example, here are some of the ideas to go along with “Who Knows What’s a Kudo?” First you see the main point of the lesson:

Focus: Giving and receiving compliments

Social and Emotional concepts:

  • Seeing the best in others
  • Focusing on the positive
  • Thanking people for their efforts

Then there are several suggestions for activities (which I’ve just summarized here):

    • Pair the children up and have them each say three positive things about each other.  Then write those things on a cards and have the larger group try to figure out who each card is describing.
    • Make acrostics of each child’s name having them think of positive words to go with each letter, like these that the boys and I did together.  (They really enjoyed this and wanted to do one for Arianna, but I wasn’t sure I could come up with three positive “A” words for a 2-year old so I said we’d hold off on that!)


  • Make “friendship soup” by having the children brainstorm different friendship traits and write them on separate cards.  Then put all the cards in a bowl and stir them up with a big spoon.  Have the children each draw a card, read the trait, and name another person in the group who demonstrates that trait.

There are ideas like this for each song.  While most of them are designed for a classroom setting, many are easily adaptable for families to use as well.

Just the Facts

  • This is geared for ages 4-8, but my younger children also enjoyed the music.
  • Songs – $.99 each (available to download individually)
  • Albums (5 songs on each) – $4.95
  • Happy Kids Songs Workbook – $12.56

Final Thoughts

I don’t plan to continue using Happy Kids Songs on a regular basis, though I might pull some of them out again at some point.  For one thing, I’m rather fussy about musical styles, and these songs weren’t to my particular taste.  (I never heard any complaints from my kids though, so I think they enjoyed them.)

However, the main reason I don’t see them as something our family will use is because I prefer to keep our character education rooted in the Bible so my kids will be able to connect decisions about their attitudes and behavior with God’s truth.  Many of the lessons taught in Happy Kids Songs stem from biblical concepts, but I would be more inclined to use them if I had an quick reference that listed Bible verses to go along with each song.  If I ever end up back in a public school classroom, however, these would be a great resource!

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Accountable Kids (Review)

collageOne of the treasures I brought home from the Great Homeschool Convention last month was a bag full of goodies from Accountable Kids.  I was so impressed with this program from the moment I first stopped by their booth that I purchased boards for all four of my children, knowing that it’s something we will be using for years to come and even Nicholas would need his own place to keep track of his responsibilities.  Almost everyone who has come into our home since we started the program has commented on them, and so I thought I’d take some time to share with you about how Accountable Kids has helped our family.


What is It?

Accountable Kids is a system that helps children take responsibility for the things they need to do each day.  Although it has some components of a “chore chart,” it’s actually more of a time management system, because it includes things like eating meals and taking their vitamins as well as jobs like picking up toys or doing the dishes.

The main components of the program are the Progress Board and the various cards that are used with it.  Without going into a detailed explanation of all the cards, let me just give a quick overview.

The “responsibility cards” tell the child what they need to do.  You can trim the length to group them into different times of the day (morning, day, and evening).


At the beginning of the day, all the cards are hanging on the first peg of their board.  When the child completes the action on the card, they flip it over onto the second peg.  When all the cards for that group are finished, the child gets a “ticket,” which they hang on the third peg.  If they complete all the responsibility cards that day, they will have earned 3 tickets, and they get a star on their “date” card (fourth peg).  On the fifth ticket, we hang cards with extra jobs that they can complete on top of their regular responsibilities.  When they complete one of these, they get a “bonus buck” card (which they hang behind their tickets on the third peg).


We keep all the rewards cards on our “Mini Board,” which is mounted out of the children’s reach above their boards.  (There are two other kinds of cards, the “Best Behavior Card” and the “Privilege Pass,” which are also hung here.)


So I just mentioned three kinds of rewards: tickets, stars on a “date card”, and “bonus bucks.”  The nice thing about these rewards is that each family can decided what those are worth.  I tell you about what we did in a minute.  It might sound a little complicated a first, but it’s actually pretty simple once you have it all in front of you.

Putting It to Use in Our Family

We watched the DVD with our kids, and they were eager to get started.  We let anticipation build up a bit as we went through a few steps to get things ready.

Personalizing Our Boards

The first thing we did was set to work decorating their boards.  I took the kids shopping and they each got to pick out some stickers.  I also bought some wooden letters to put on their names, which I painted and glued on the boards when I glued the pegs in.  Eric and I decided to cover them all with a coat of polyurethane (actually it took several coats) to give them a shiny finish before letting everyone decorate their own boards with the stickers they had chosen.

P1030377 P1030380

Prepping the Cards

P1030370Next we got out all the cards and have the kids stamp the back of them so we knew whose was whose.  (The mom at the Accountable Kids booth at the convention suggested this, and it was a great idea!  Not only do I know who dropped a card if I find it on the ground, it also ensures that they can’t spend anyone’s tickets but their own.)

Once the cards were all stamped, I went through and pulled out cards for the things the kids were already doing.  (I wanted to make sure we got the system running smoothly before we added in any new responsibilities).  I trimmed them according to what time of day I wanted to group them in, Eric and Ian hung everyone’s boards on the wall, and then we were ready to start.

Putting Accountable Kids to Work

P1030384Our first day was beautiful.  The kids were excited about it all.  They loved knowing what was expected of them, and they especially loved the rewards.  In our house, 1 ticket = 15 minutes of screen time (either a video or computer games).  Everyone worked hard, got things done, and earned all their tickets.  Lovely.

The second day was enlightening.  Personalities started to show.  Elijah was excited to start saving up his tickets, whereas Ian was thrilled that he could buy screen time and started spending his tickets immediately.

However, then reality set in.  He dragged his feet about completing his morning cards and missed out on that ticket.  He spent 2 hours staring at a math page he easily could have completed in 20 minutes.  It made me realize how dependent I have made him on me to push him and prod him into getting things accomplished.

After about 90 minutes, he was standing on his chair stomping his feet saying, “I want to be done NOW!” over and over and over again.  I loved knowing that there were clearly established consequences for the choices he was making.  I didn’t have to get upset.  I didn’t have to hover over him.  I just calmly reminded him that he could be done as soon as he made the decision to do what he was supposed to do.  Then I went about my business.  (I got so much accomplished that morning!)

Eventually I took him a drink, gave him a hug, and pointed out that he already knew the answer to the next problem.  He quieted down and got right to work.  We haven’t really had any problems since then.  The kids don’t earn all their tickets every day, but it’s usually because things just got too busy, not because they were being defiant.

In the month that we’ve been using Accountable Kids, we have come a LONG way.  I’ve added in a couple daily responsibilities for the boys, and they almost always work through their cards with a good attitude.  When we are out doing other things and they miss a few cards, no one has complained about not earning a ticket, because there’s not much time for screen time on those days anyway.

I’ve awarded a few “Best Behavior” cards, which they can use like a normal ticket.  The key to these cards is that they cannot be earned.  I might give one to a child who comes immediately when I call them all over, rewarding his obedience and showing the others that they missed out by not obeying right away.  Or if I see one of them going out of their way to help another sibling without being asked, I praise them and reward them with a Best Behavior card.  They never know when I decided to use them, but it’s made it that much more special when they get one.

We haven’t implemented the entire program yet.  Our boys have done a couple extra chores to earn bonus bucks, but we haven’t really emphasized that yet, so they’ve kind of forgotten about them (as have we).  I think once we cash the boys’ bonus bucks in for real money they’re going to be more motivated to get that part of the program up and running.

We also haven’t had any date nights with mom or dad yet, which is the reward for getting 10 stars on their date card.  (They get a star when they’ve completed every responsibility card that day.)  We also haven’t used the Privilege Passes at all yet.

What We Liked

I wish I could show you the difference Accountable Kids has made in the overall atmosphere of our home.  Eric and I were marveling the other night over what good attitudes everyone has and how responsible the older boys especially have become.  I’m not sure I can put my finger on all the changes, but let me list of few:

  • No nagging about specific chores. (We just ask them how they’re doing on their cards.)
  • The kids really appreciate being “in control” of their own day.  Even though we decide what their cards are, they get to choose whether they do them and get the rewards or grumble and complain and then miss out.
  • I rarely have to tell the kids “no” when they ask to watch a show.  If they don’t have tickets, they don’t ask.  If they do, I’m usually more than willing to let them watch because I’m grateful their jobs are done.
  • Smiles! My children have become much happier, I think because of being able to take charge of their own lives.  I am amazed at the difference in one in particular, whose eyes just light up at being able to see what is expected and being able to do it without a grown-up being in control.
  • Overall, our house is so much tidier than it ever has been, just because I don’t have to nag the kids to pick up their things.  And now that they have cards for things like sweeping and emptying the dishwasher, I feel like I’m not alone in trying to keep the household running.  It’s been SO nice!

What Could Have Been Better for Our Family

I wish there had been a visual “quick start” guide for when we first put everything in motion, just because there are a lot of parts to the program and it was hard to keep them all straight at first.  We watched the DVD (which was really helpful), but I am such a visual person and I wish there had been a chart I could look at to remember the different parts of the program.  I started reading the book, but I haven’t gotten very far.

Aside from that however, there’s not really anything I would add or change.  I am really pleased with how Accountable Kids is working for our family, and I know we’ll be using it for a long time.  On a scale of 1 to 5, I would definitely give this program a 5!

Just the Facts

Accountable Kids is geared toward kids ages 3-14.  (Arianna is 2 1/2 and we help her with her cards as much as she’ll let us, but it’s not something I would use with her yet if she didn’t have older siblings.)

If you’re interested in using Accountable Kids with your family, visit their website to find everything you’ll need to get started. (For our 4 kids, we bought the Basic Start-Up Kit plus 3 extra Child Kits and a mini board.)  Here’s what they sell:

  • Basic Start-Up Kit Package (shown here), which includes a book, one child kit, and a link to the Quick-Start video online – $45
  • Deluxe Start-Up Kit Package, which includes everything in the basic package, plus a Family Forum board (not discussed in this review) and a mini board – $65
  • Extra Child Kits, which include a natural wood Progress Board, 60 Reminder Cards, 3 blank Reminder Cards, 10 Tickets, 10 Bonus Bucks, 4 Best Behavior Cards, 2 Privilege Passes, 3 Special Date Cards, and 2 sticker sheets – $24.98 when purchased with either of the above packages

I can’t speak highly enough about this program.  We had been trying to figure out a system for getting chores done and paying the kids for extra work, but we just hadn’t been able to come up with anything as simple and effective as Accountable Kids.  It is exactly what we were looking for, and I’m so thankful we stumbled across it!

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-We Choose Virtues ReviewControlled, 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:

We Choose Virtues Review(Front Side)

  • 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.)

We Choose Virtues Review(Back side)

  • 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 orP1030323 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:

Day 1

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).

Sing-Along Virtue SongsDay 2

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.)

Day 3

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.)

Ian - We Choose Virtues

My virtuous pirate. Is that an oxymoron?

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:

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.)

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