Back to the candy factory…..I mean, school

My children have gone back to school. If I said I was sorry about that, I’d be lying.

I love my kids, but summer is hard for working moms. And August is crazy around here because I’m about to leave on my 4th trip of the month, all 4 of my kids have had birthdays in the past 3 weeks, and two of my kids have changed from public to charter school, or charter to public school, this year. Immunization waivers from the health dept. are a pain in the butt.

And my oldest daughter turned 16 yesterday and is not only transferring to the charter school I co-founded (Newseek says it’s the #1 school in Utah)—she’s also moving back home after living with her dad for a while. (Tears welling up just writing that. I’ve no words to express my happiness about both of these events.)

I went to the elementary school where Tennyson is transferring into 6th grade. I waited in line to talk to the teacher. A bag of M&M’s was on each desk, with the child’s name hand-lettered on it.

This was the convo:

Me: I’ve heard great things about you! My son is excited to bust out of 6 straight years wearing a school uniform. I just have one concern. I’m kind of a, um, you know, health food nut. I know, I’m weird. But I’m not a huge fan of candy as an academic or behavioral reward. I read in your handout that you do that?

Teacher: Oh, haha, yeah, um, I really should do less of that.

Me: I just wanted to volunteer to pay for alternative rewards, you know, that stuff you can buy a pack at a time—pencils, little toys, notepads, stuff like that? If you buy it, for the whole class, I’ll pay for it, instead of the candy.

Another Mom: Oriental Trading Company is good.

Me: I know candy is the easy thing to do. [I hand her my business card and tell her I’m teaching a class here in Orem Sept. 6 and I hope she can come, bring her husband and kids.]

Teacher: Oh, Green Smoothie Girl! I know you! I do green smoothies.

Another Mom: Oh! You’re Green Smoothie Girl! I just got your newsletter this morning—I want some of those raw bars! Are they really good? [A conversation ensues between the teacher and the waiting moms about how this mom has been surreptitiously slipping the greens into the kids’ breakfast smoothie and how excited she is about it.]

[I know with that raw-bar comment, this whole blog just got suspiciously self-indulgent, especially when I put the link behind the words! They are yummy and so nutritious. But I am not making this conversation up.]

Teacher: It’s hard to find stuff that appeals to 6th graders. Stickers just aren’t gonna cut it. How about pretzels, should I give those to your son instead?

Me: Um, that’s not really better. White flour and salt, you know? When my kids were little, I used to take alternative “healthy” treats to the teachers for when candy was being handed out. But Tennyson probably won’t like that. If you don’t find something whiz-bang enough at Oriental Trader that 6th graders will like, I might just set up a reward system where I pay him $1 for every treat he turns down. Or maybe I will give you some alternative treats for him, if he’s okay with it.

[end of conversation]

Any moms who have better ideas, let me know. My kids have been educated at a charter school I helped open, since my 18-year old was in 3rd grade. So I haven’t had to deal with this, much, for a very long time.

My purpose talking to the teacher is to (a) identify myself as a watchful parent who cares about not only my child’s health and nutrition, but the whole class’s, (b) be positive and offer to help, and (c) let the teacher know that I generally support her even if there’s one area where I’m a fan of the classroom policy.

I’m sure the moms reading this blog would like feedback and ideas, so join the conversation!

13 thoughts on “Back to the candy factory…..I mean, school

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  1. Hi Robyn…actually, I don’t think there *is* a link to the raw bars in the above article. But I’d be happy if there was. 🙂

  2. Robyn,

    I don’t have any kids in school yet, but I did teach 1st grade for a year before I had my daughter. I think you know my sister Steffanie from when you taught at BYU. Anyways, there is a Health Curriculum that teachers are required to teach in public schools (I doubt many actually do) and while some of it is a little ridiculous some of it lends itself well to teaching healthy lifestyles and eating. For 6th grade they have to learn to prepare a nutritionally sound snack, which might be fun if you offered to teach that particular objective and then leave some extras as reward type treats. Either way, I suggest looking at the core. Go here ( and scroll down to Standard 6. It might give you some ideas of how you can help in the classroom. It’s hard for teachers to turn down help especially when it’s something they should be teaching anyways.

  3. I have similar troubles with school rewards etc. My son is sugar free always has been. He was home schooled till last year. So his first year in school was grade 6. Teachers did not respect our food choices and still offered him candy which came home in his bag. I find it very frustrating in and out of school unless you have a an allergy or disease people don’t want to accept your choices for food. For many it is lack of knowledge of health eating. However, I believe that many don’t want to know that they should be doing more for their kid’s health.

    I have one question, does any one let their kids have the occasional treat? my son sadly loves chocolate and he is so curious about other foods, he is 12 and his Dad feels I should let go a bit, but I don’t agree. My issue is one treat leads to another and then they have the taste for it. I would rather make something or buy something healthy. My son loved those honey and tahini butter “candies”. I struggle too one treat leaves me craving another. Then I feel back where I started. Detoxing again 🙂

  4. Which charter school? And maybe homeschool would be the only real solution to this. But what about church? I am so at a loss of what to do in our new ward. I’ve never seen this much candy handed out for 2 straight hours in my entire life!!!

  5. Sounds like you do not have a gold medal school. Our teachers ate not allowed to use food as a reward in the classroom. Maybe you could volunteer on the PTA to see what you can do to become a gold medal school! I am the gold medal specialist for our school. I’m still trying to figure out what I do and I’m trying to put a stop to the selling of popcorn and popsicles at recess on Fridays!

    Ps. I am writing to you at 1:39 am with restless legs. It’s horrible! Please help! Do you have any ideas on what to do for RL? It is disrupting my sleep. That’s another issue lately. I need sleep!

  6. Hi robin,
    My kids go to a small private school. I’ve spoken to the teacher numerous times over the years. It really doesn’t seem to matter. She is obese and will come up with any excuse to bring in donuts etc… Here’s the kicker…I’m the middle school health teacher AND she is my good friend. I even had a box of treats just for my kids. That didnt work. I bought my kids special natural m & m,s too. Nothing helps.
    Today I talked to the primary president at church AGAIN. It should not be a.battleground especially at church but it is.

    What to do? I hate being a pain to everyone but this is serious. Everyones comments are really helpful and help me feel like I’m not alone.

    Grants pass, Oregon

  7. Kristen,
    I too have suffered from RLS for several years. Drinking alkaline water (I recently purchased the Life Ionizer) over the past few months has helped immensely. I believe doing Yoga has helped too. I rarely suffer from it any more and if I do it is mild and quick. That’s what has been working for me. Best wishes. I know what a horrible pain and frustration RL can be.

  8. I recommend offering Tennison the $1 or some other desirable compensation. It has worked with my kids (3 – 12 yrs old) for a few years. They cave in occasionally, but usually do a great job. Now that they are in the habit of not eating it, they don’t even ask for the reward unless it was something they really wanted. My girls love choosing which friend to give their treat to. Other kids are thrilled to be sitting next to the kid who doesn’t eat his candy.

    In some cases I refer to it as an allergy with the harmful effects of too much sugar as the “reaction”.

    Good luck!

  9. That teacher is a liar, or hasn’t really tried stickers. I teach 9th grade (high school) and you would be amazed what I can get the kids to do for stickers. I am guilty of giving candy sometimes too though.

  10. Robyn, Here is a link to a booklet about non-food rewards that my sister wrote a couple of years ago when she was on the Utah State PTA board. It’s geared toward teachers and parents and may be helpful. I’m not sure how widely the hardcopies were circulated, but certainly pointing teachers towards this resource couldn’t hurt! Hope this gives some good ideas!.pdf

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