Just Precious

Always in support of the IEP

Posted in education, parenting by Julie Meyers Pron on November 11, 2009


A recent friend’s facebook status read:  

…is PISSED at his kindergarten teacher!… now they are trying to get him labeled IEP, more money for the public school, … already had him tested over summer and educationally speaking he is fine, I have the documentation! He is SO smart he shocks us!!He has other issueses from [an injury] but NONE having to due with intelligence
I’m paraphrasing. As an educator, this status frustrated me. Reading it made me want to reach through the computer, grab her and shake her. “Do you know how wonderful a kindergarten IEP is?! Do you know how far ahead of the game you’ll be with a little Individualized Education Plan in place?!”
Once one has an IEP, it can never, ever be taken away. It will always be in the child’s file, even if you move to a different system, even if the child “graduates” from the IEP. An IEP allows for a group of adults and, at times, the child, to discuss and analyze the child to determine the best method for that child to learn.  Special services may be determined necessary. And, really, why not?! Why not get everything there is from the public educational system? Why not bring a little attention to your child, in a positive, forward thinking manner? Why not accept smaller classes and a lower student:teacher ratio? Why not, possibly, offer a child special testing conditions, special learning conditions, and special consideration and attention to help the child succeed?
Having your child pin-pointed as a child in need (any need) isn’t a bad thing; its a good thing. With overcrowded classrooms and under-assisted teachers, getting your child out of the middle (where students needs are often overlooked) and into a specialized plan should be considered a goal. Its a way to help your child to succeed.
Its also important to know that a teacher can’t just send a note home and write an IEP. Screenings take months of discussion, meetings and assessments. The process begins with a referral to assess. What follows is a stream of events that call for approvals, signatures, discussions and observations. This timeline gives an example of the timeline in California. Its a great example, though it may change from state to state.
An IEP opens doors for students. It defines their learning styles, needs and offers suggestions (usually practices) that helps the student to succeed.


More IEP Resources*:
IEP Process
Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (M-Team or MDE)
IEP Guidelines
Teacher resources and key terms and definitions
*Just Precious does not guarantee the information in the resources to be correct. We recommend them only as articles for further reading. Image created by Dominik Gwarek.

5 Things… Teachers love to receive for holiday gifts

Posted in 5 Things..., education, Uncategorized by Julie Meyers Pron on November 9, 2009


Last week, we posted things that collect dust when gifted to a teacher for the holidays. This week, we’re featuring the good gifts. Want that teacher to really appreciate your thought? Go with one of these:

  1. Gift Card. Really, this is hands-down the best gift. What kind of gift card, though? We’re big fans of Barnes & Noble or Borders, local  movie theater, Sephora (for a female teacher) or a local spa. Amazon is great, too.
  2. Magazine Subscription. Giving a magazine subscription requires a little bit of work. You have to really know the teacher and her interests. Then, once you’ve identified a magazine that she’ll enjoy, call the subscription center. They’ll tell you if she already has a subscription. You’ll also need her address, which isn’t always easy to get. An alternative to all the work? Give a Giftscriptions Magazine Gift Certificate: 50 Choice Magazine Collectionwhere the teacher will get to select the magazine. 
  3. Does she drink coffee? Then a travel mug like this personalized one (not a teacher-y one) is always useful. Slipping a Starbucks gift card inside is an extra bonus–even a $5 card will treat her to a coffee)! And if the school has a Keurig coffee maker for the teachers, find out her favorite flavor and gift her a box of k-cups with a big bow.
  4. Have a teacher new to teaching? Find your local parent teacher store. She’ll love a certificate to use here. Teaching, unfortunately, costs a lot.
  5. Slippers! After a long day on her feet, a teacher loves to come home and get comfortable. Plush slippers (or warm, soft socks) are always a welcome gift. You can usually find great ones that aren’t too costly at Sears or JCPenney. Or spoil her feet with slippers by N*A*P.

The gift that’s most important won’t cost a lot of money, its just the promise to stay on the teacher’s side and to work together to help the children. As a teacher, my favorite gift each year was from a family who sent me their holiday card with the kids’ picture. On the back were quotes from the kids from the past year. I still have those in a box of memories. The teacher mugs, scented candles and lotions were given to charity… usually about a week or two into January.

A Successful Preschool BINGO Night

Posted in education by Julie Meyers Pron on November 5, 2009


This week our preschool hosted its first BINGO night. It won’t be the last. We had a fabulous turnout and the excitement was electric. Kudos go to BINGO chairperson, Stephanie, and her committee. They were so together that when Stephanie couldn’t attend at the last minute due to a family emergency, the committee ran the event nearly flawlessly.

BINGO Night was run as both a family/community event and a fundraiser. Usually, we classify events into actvities or fundraisers. BINGO qualified as both, which makes budgetting more difficult. We listed it as a fundraiser in our books. 

Announcements went out over a month in advance and we started taking reservations right then so that we could plan our purchases. Usually RSVPs and checks are hard to come-by so far ahead, so we offered an incentive: Families who registered 1 month in advance were entered into a  raffle: the winning family was given 4 tickets to see Disney on Ice, courtesy of Feld Entertainment and Just Precious. We drew in 21 registrants in less than 5 days. People who RSVPed within 2 weeks were offered extra raffle tickets to our raffle prizes that were being awarded during BINGO night. (Over 2/3 of our RSVPs were received within 2 weeks.)

The decor was bright, colorful and preschool-friendly. The circle tables were lined in plastic tablecloths that were red, blue and yellow and balloons of the same colors served as centerpieces. We love using balloons for several reasons: they’re bright, decorate with height, serve as great party favors and they’re raised above the tables so that kids can see across. Also in the centers of the tables were cups of Froot Loops and small pretzels to serve as BINGO markers. A few people commented that the kids would rather eat them the markers than play with them, but regular marker chips are choking hazards, candy is worse to eat than cereal and using an ink stamp would be a cause for the need of many copies of the boards (which is costly and eco-unfriendly.)

Our committee selected a BINGO game with pictures of common preschool words like “bed”, “dog” and “pencils.” There were only 9 spaces on each card which allowed faster games. We purchased several game boxes that will be used again in the future. When the number of children out-numbered our game boards, we made a few photocopies.  We also didn’t clear boards for each winner, there were about 10 winners (at least) before it was announced to clear the cards. Upon winning, the kids yelled our “BINGO” and walked to the prize basket to claim a prize. Prizes were an assortment of toy novelties from Oriental Trading Company.

Following about 1/2 hour of playtime, the raffle prizes were drawn. We raffled 2 $50 gift cards to GAP, a $25 grocery gift card to Shop Rite and a set of DVDs by Scholastic Storybook Treasures. The grand prize was  the 50/50 drawing where the winner won $87.50. (Raffle tickets were sold to families as they checked in. Ticket cost was $1 per ticket, 6 tickets for $5 or 18 tickets for $10.)

Finally, the families celebrated the evening with an ice cream party. Our committee pre-scooped vanilla ice cream into plastic cups and provided sprinkles and syrups.

The event lasted about an hour and raised around $300 for the school. Perhaps more importantly, the families enjoyed a night of fun while getting to know other families at the school.

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Pre-Kindergarten? Kindergarten? What’s the right decision?

Posted in education by Julie Meyers Pron on November 4, 2009


True, its only November, but the scurry to find the perfect placement for next year is a hot topic, as usual, at our preschool this fall.  This year, I’m a voice of experience. Not only am I the former teacher, but I’m a parent who’s made the decision and experienced the result.

We opted to hold our son back and enroll him in a year of pre-K, affectionately called “The Fives” at our preschool. Not for academics, but to allow him to “grow up”, to mature and to be socially fit for a school child’s real world. Big has an end-of-August birthday and our school district has an August 31 cut-off.

It was, definitely, the right decision. In fact, I have yet to meet parents who would disagree. Many parents who push their children to Kindergarten express that they wish they had held their child back.  2 or 6 years later, I know parents who are struggling to help their child to keep up with their peers or that they would love to have their child repeat, but short of a transfer to a private education, its barely possible.  But I have never found a parent who regrets an extra year of preschool, or a year of Pre-Kindergarten.

In our case, we’d rather Big, and next, Middle, and, likely, Little, be the oldest than the youngest. Our decision didn’t consider academics (lucky thing, because during Big’s year in the Fives he didn’t learn much academically. His pre-Kindergarten curriculum didn’t focus on academics that matched his needs –nor, in my opinion, should they have — but far more on the maturational needs of him and his classmates). We wanted an opportunity for our son to grow. Most important, to take an extra year to still be a child before the pressures of Kindergarten and elementary school began.

After a year in Pre-Kindergarten, we opted to keep Big in the same private school and enroll him in the full day Kindergarten program. Just as I did the November before, I visited Kindergarten programs in our area, trying to find the right fit. There are two things I learned in my search:

  1. whatever decision we made will be fine. It will be the right one for many reasons, and the wrong one for many reasons. No placement is perfect. But with the joint support of the family and school, a child will be happy and excited and learn something in Kindergarten.
  2. Kindergarten, just like Pre-Kindergarten, is only for one school year. And after (or, if need be, during) the school year a change can be made for the following year. Its only one year. And there’s no way that 13, or 14, years of education will all be stellar.

Recognizing these two parts of educational choice have made me  more relaxed and confident in our educational decisions for our children. And while we have a lot to decide before next year (where will Big go to first grade?!), I know this is not a decision worth losing sleep over. I’ll do my research, visit any schools I have yet to visit, and talk to his teacher often, because I value her opinion and trust that she sees a different Big in the classroom than I do at our home.

Just as we did in the past, we’ll follow our gut, which I presume is based on the knowledge we are learning about our kids and their opportunities. And I’ll always remember that, whatever the decision we make, we’re doing it with the best of intentions.

To read more about our decision, click here.

5 Things … not to give as a teacher gift

Posted in 5 Things..., education by Julie Meyers Pron on November 2, 2009


I promise, a teacher doesn’t need (or want) another of these. (Though she’ll be adoring in her thank you note anyway!)

  1. Scented candles
  2. Scented lotions
  3. “#1 Teacher” mug (or #1 Teacher anything)
  4. Christmas Tree ornament (especially if she doesn’t celebrate Christmas.) This also applies to a Jesus Loves Me baby toy for a baby shower for a Jewish teacher Mom-to-Be. Very nice, but she doesn’t want it
  5. Gift Card to a store that isn’t near her home. No, she’s not going to drive over an hour for a movie she can see around the corner at a local theater. She also would rather not drive upwards of an hour to a spa, video rental shop or mall. If you’re going to gift a  gift card (and gift cards are a good thing to gift!), make sure there is a store local to the teacher, or that she can redeem it online.

So, what should you gift a teacher? Find out in next week’s 5 Things.

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5 Things… to Do at a Preschool Fall Festival

Posted in education, parenting by Julie Meyers Pron on September 29, 2009

So, I’m on the phone with Paula, a PTO mom who is running tomorrow’s Fall Festival at our preschool. Unfortunately, her son has strep, so while she is still running the Fall Festival, she won’t be there. Together, we brainstormed a simple few ideas:

  1. Paint a Fall Festival Banner with apples
  2. Pumpkin Patch in the sandbox
  3. The Wonder Mini-Pumpkin (to the tune of The Wonderball)
  4. Autumn Handprint Wreath
  5. Face Painting

Here comes Kindergarten: NOW he’s ready

Posted in education by Julie Meyers Pron on August 26, 2009


About 6 months before having my first August baby, I gathered with teacher friends in the teacher lunch room at the elementary school where I taught. I knew then, without even knowing my child, that with an August 31 cut-off, the baby would be “held back” prior to Kindergarten.

There were many reasons. To start, I’d rather him or her be the oldest than the youngest. He’d drive his car and drink legally first rather than last. I recognized that no matter how much he could handle academically when he was 6, 7 or 8, it was the maturation of the child I was more concerned about. So I wasn’t just thinking ahead 6 or 7 years, I was  thinking ahead 12 or 13 years.

While this decision was based on emotions, it was also based on experience. Each year, by the time the first week of school had ended, I could practically place my students in a line by age, youngest to oldest, and without even glancing at the class roster. This wasn’t an academic judgment, it had nothing to do with the children’s skills in math or reading. It was based on transitions, conflict resolution, neediness. Birth dates went hand-in-hand with maturation.

Jeremy was the shortest child in my 2nd grade class. Freckles speckled his face, his toothless grin lit up his brown eyes. He skipped around the room, always chipper, always happy.The shortest child in the room (both his parents were short) by almost a head, visitors walked into the class and asked who this adorable child was. Unfortunately, they weren’t just asking because he was such a cutie, they also asked because he didn’t sit through an entire lesson like his peers. Concepts taught to 2nd graders took longer for him to comprehend and, usually, when there was a problem in the cafeteria or on the playground the “innocent grin” belonged on Jeremy’s freckled face.

Jeremy, whose birthday was September 6, started Kindergarten and 1st grade in a different school district where the “cut-off” was September 30, versus our August 31. Having completed Kindergarten when he transferred, my district slated him to enter second grade when he moved to our school, a grade where he would be the youngest, if only by a few weeks. There were children in his grade who lapped him, being older than he by more than 14 months. He wasn’t just small. He was small and young. When we paired up with a first grade class he fit right in, with the first graders. But amongst the 2nd graders, he was, well, young.

He moved to a different school within the same district before 5th grade. That year we finally held him back. He repeated 4th grade, fit in, succeeded. Jeremy’s story is only one of many I experienced as a teacher. All strong supports of my decision to “hold my son back.”

Every child is different, but I challenge you to show me a parent who regrets holding back. I knew we made the right decision when 3 days into the school year I received a “we need to talk” call from his pre-k teacher. The third day of school. He could read, he could write, his logic was strong. But maturationally, the extra year before Kindergarten had already proven to be the right choice.

He’ll be starting Kindergarten 2 weeks. Age 6. Yes, he’s ready.

This post is in response to the Y! Motherboard’s topic of the month: Selecting a School. For great tips and opinions on a number of back-to-school issues visit Shine and get the low down on a variety of topics.  And be sure to read other Y! Motherboard member’s posts about Back to School Season: