Day 127: chicken patty, styrofoam postcards, and Waldorf Schools

Today’s menu: chicken patty, raw broccoli, peach fruit cup, buns

Looky here, we’ve got raw broccoli! I opened up the package and just poured it into my mouth. In chatting with a random sample of three kids, two of the three told me they ate the broccoli. I like that the broccoli is not in a sturdy paper container, but in leww packaging. Yes, it would be better if the broccoli could be scooped onto the tray, but you know, I appreciate the improvement and I hope it’s saving some money.

I ate the chicken patty, the broccoli, and the fruit cup. I left the bun because I’m avoiding obvious gluten in school lunches

Just thinking out loud here…on the days we get oranges, I wonder if they could be sliced and put in little plastic bags? It would be more trash, but at least the kids would eat the oranges. No time to peel…

Styrofoam garbaggio today too!

Actually I’m saving styrofoam lunch trays for home art projects and to put under leaky planters. I’m also thinking that if I get enough of them, I could do some kind of mailing action and send them out to school lunch decision makers! Styrofoam postcards, yo!


My mom gave me an article about “exhaustion” from the Chicago Tribune. She told me that I really need to watch myself so that I don’t overdo it. Are you laughing like I was? I got a good chuckle from that one. I work full-time, I’m a mother, and I post daily on the blog! That’s enough to drive anyone to drink. Also I have some exciting stuff happening that I’ll tell you about later, but let’s just say that I don’t know how I do it.

Recently at work I had a moment when I couldn’t breathe and I started wringing my hands. I think it was a panic attack and it had nothing to do with the blog. My workload is really, really overwhelming. I don’t have enough hours in the day and staying late like I always have takes a toll on me what with family obligations and then daily blogging. It’s a lot.

Years ago somebody said to me that Leonardo da Vinci had the same number of hours in the day that I have. I remember thinking, “Well, that just makes me feel like a failure, thanks!” Doing the school lunch project has made my days feel very compact indeed.

I’m want to live in the present and enjoy my students. I think all teachers find themselves feeling like they are checking things off a list all day without getting a chance to connect with individual students. If I don’t stay in the present, then my whole day is one big mental to-do list. I can’t live like that.

I am looking forward to getting a break. I don’t know when I will get one next, but it will be nice…one day…maybe. I may not ever get a chance to rest — I have new ideas about life all the time. For example, next summer I want to take a big school lunch tour of the country. I’m already thinking about stops on the tour!


At BlogHer Food I chatted with some people who have their kids in Waldorf Schools. I had never heard of them before, but after the core rationale was explained to me, I realized that what they offer is the kind of school that caters to the unique experience of childhood as a creative, exploratory time. I love that idea.

One of the many radical departures is that reading isn’t introduced until after age 7, often around third grade. Coming from traditional public education, that struck me as foreign. If you read, “Why does Waldorf teach reading so late?”(scroll down), there are some compeling reasons. I agree that it’s possible that an early introduction to reading that is not child-centered (as in an adult pushing) could lead to “reading fatigue.” My nephew is in his second year of preschool and is reading “at the second grade level.” It makes me wonder if he will tire of reading as a tool for discovery.

I learned to read in kindergarten and I have always enjoyed books. My parents enjoy reading (my dad is into mysteries and my mom reads random works of popular fiction). I grew up in a print-rich environment. I’m sure that had I learned to read in third grade I would be the same person I am today.

Waiting to read with the kids in my community might be a mistake. They don’t come from print-rich environments – they come from screen-rich environments (TVs in kids’ bedrooms and multiple gaming systems). In the home they don’t develop a love of or curiosity about words. On the other hand, I agree in developing their creativity and listening skills, which are tenets of the Waldorf method. What are your thoughts?


By the way, you need to check out my friend Andrew Wilder’s #Unprocessed Challenge — his readers are signing up and pledging to eat unprocessed food for the month of October. You can join anytime (even though the month is 2/3 over). Since my readers are hip to the latest in food blogs (thanks for all your comments this weekend!), you probably already know about it, but I just wanted to give him an official shoutout. I can’t really sign up myself (see above meal), but I might be doing a guest post over there soon! He’s giving me good ideas for when I finish the project…I’m brainstorming what to do for my first month of detox next year!

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36 thoughts on “Day 127: chicken patty, styrofoam postcards, and Waldorf Schools

  1. I think the styrofoam post cards is a genius idea. I'd love to see this kind of action spread to other industries too. Ever purchased an SD card for your camera? They come in packaging a hundred times their size!

  2. I like the Waldorf attitude and looked at it after my son was done with his preschool-2nd grade school. I couldn't swing the cost. I think the no TV thing would have bugged the kid to the core and maybe I would have had to get up with him in the morning instead of the electric babysitter at 7am.
    My son was an early reader and he hasn't shown any signs of fatigue yet.
    The chicken looked scary today.
    Deb T.

  3. Yay for raw broccoli! I think that's a brilliant move on your school's part, because personally, I have never known a kid to turn their nose up to raw broccoli. I grew up with lots of kids in my life, and typically raw broccoli became "trees," which meant a great excuse to pretend to be your favorite dinosaur and see how many trees you could eat.

    I was thrilled to hear that several of your students gave the broccoli a try and discovered that they liked it. Hopefully it will become a regular rotation on your menu, because the more kids start eating it, the more peer pressure will coax the finicky eaters into giving it a shot, too.

  4. Yes, Leonardo da Vinci might have had the same amount of hours in his day that we do, but I was very surprised to learn (when doing home school with my son) that Leonardo had a problem with completing his projects and many paintings we have are not actually finished. Even the Mona Lisa has a portion that is not finished off properly. He only had about a dozen finished paintings in his life's work! So maybe he isn't a great example to look up to in this instance… so don't feel too bad!!!

    Denise in Saskatchewan, Canada

  5. Hooray for the fresh broccoli! We get that often with our school lunches and it's surprising how many kids really look forward to it. Unfortunately they then drench it in ranch dressing!

    As for reading, there are so many different things that go into it. I was raised in a home where we read all the time. I was reading by age 3 and have continued my love of reading all my life. My children were raised in a print rich environment and both struggled with reading. My husband also has difficulty reading but was never tested for a learning difference. My son has dyslexia and had double vision which was treated with glasses and vision therapy. Once we figured out his difficulty (in 4th grade)he became an avid reader. Still slow but he loves books. My daughter also has dyslexia but it is complicated by Irlen Syndrome which makes reading difficult for her. She was not reading at grade level until she was in 10th grade. So, I think reading availability requires that all the right things be in place. For some, reading will come naturally. For others, they may struggle all their lives.

    As for time, well, there is never enough time in the day! I'm a substitute parapro so there are times when I have short days and times when I have long days. Then I'm raising my daughter with bipolar and LDs. Add in all the other little things that take our time and it can be overwhelming. I've found that it is important to take some part of each day just for myself so I can help others. On airplanes they always tell you to put on your oxygen mask before you try to help others with theirs. A thought to ponder. 🙂

  6. I started reading before the age of 4, in fact, I don't remember a time when I couldn't read. I still read to this day some 45 years later each and every day for pleasure and fact finding. I think reader fatigue is a myth to be honest. I do like the Waldorf philosophy in so many ways but on some things it is out to lunch.

  7. Love the styrofoam postcard idea! Also, I so admire you for keeping up with this blog. Just seeing the food you eat each day pains me to the core – I can't imagine being the one eating it! It's appalling what passes for food in our school cafeterias.

    My personal experience with Waldorf schools has not been great, but it is purely anecdotal and should probably be taken with a grain of salt. My cousins grew up across the street from me. We grew up in a fairly affluent community and virtually lived at each other's houses. I went to public school and they went to Waldorf school.

    One of my cousins is dyslexic. Her dyslexia went undiagnosed in Waldorf school because "she just wasn't ready to read yet." It wasn't until she dropped out of school and re-enrolled at a public high school several years later that she finally figured out what was going on and got the help she needed. While I think her parents should have seen that there was an issue, I think the educational format was definitely a contributing factor. Heartbreaking, and it didn't have to be that way.

    My other cousin ended up dropping out of high school, getting his GED, and never continuing his education. He's now in his early 30s and still struggling.

    Regular old public school girl? Generally successful and stable college graduate.

    Those examples aside, I actually am a fan of many pieces of the Waldorf educational philosophy, but I think it takes proactive parenting and an intellectual, print-rich home environment in order for most children to be successful.

  8. If I was a kid and sat down for lunch to 'that', I think I would cry. What kid on earth would want that!?!

    Raw broccoli!!! (screams out loud, and runs from the lunch room)


    Shivers in corner thinking to self,,, 11 days,,, just 11 days more. sniff sniff

  9. Yay for Broccoli!

    I don't know much about Waldorf schools (can't afford them anyway), but my son is 4 1/2 and has been reading – real reading – for more than a year. On his own. He just loves words. I would worry if he went to school and they didn't do any reading for the first two years he was there, he would get discouraged..

  10. raw broccoli = trees! Yea!!!

    Waldorf is interesting. I've known a few families that have started their children out in Waldorf schools then have either gone to homeschooling or on to public because Waldorf in our town has one school that doesn't go past grade 5. They do keep the Wonder and Magic in learning. A child learns to knit before he/she learns to read and to play the recorder too. As both of those activities work both sides of your brain and help a child with reading later. Interesting concepts.
    As a side note: My youngest learned to knit at 3.5 yrs. of age and started reading at about the same time. Did she do either well at that age…of course not.

  11. When I was working on my reading specialist degree, my professor often mentioned that many children don't fully develop their near-point vision until around the age of 8. Reading instruction for those kids at age 5 or 6 can be futile and can also lead to the need for remedial instruction on down the road. I think the real issue here is the "readiness factor"–a term that was big when I first started teaching in the 60s. Unfortunately, it got thrown out with the bath water when it was decided by the powers-that-be that children will all the learn the same thing at the same time. So sad. Regarding Waldorf schools, I had never heard of them until a couple of weeks ago. DH and I went on a fabulous farm tour and a Waldorf school was one of the stops. It had a school garden!!! Yay! I was impressed with the school's philosophy. The tuition, sadly, would be prohibitive for the average family.

  12. I think teaching what the child wants to learn when he wants to learn it is the best way to "teach" kids. My son is 4 and has been reading simple books for several months, and reading simple words before that. He learned because he wanted to learn and I think that's what helps kids really retain information.
    If I look back to my schooling I really only remember the things I cared about or were interesting to me. Math? HA! I'm the worst. I never even bothered to memorize the multiplication tables. Science and English, though were so interesting and I really remember a lot from those subjects. Especially biology.
    So that's what we're doing now. I'm hoping to continue doing it for several more years instead of sending my boys to a public school.

    Any learning, from public to private school, has to include involvement from the parent/s. Unless what the child is learning is reinforced at home then it won't work.

  13. My niece and nephew go to a Waldorf school. The thing is, most of these kids learn to read from their parents before they go to school anyway. The kinds of parents who send their children to Waldorf schools tend to be pretty involved in their kids lives. So it's not like the children aren't learning to read, it's just that it isn't being pushed down their throats in an academic way until they're older. They still read for fun at home.

  14. Just be careful with the whole Waldorf thing. It's based on a complex religious philosophy (anthrosophy), advocated by Rudolf Steiner. One of the reasons that they don't teach reading until 3rd grade has to do with the belief that children's souls don't completely enter their bodies until then. The most strict Waldorf schools will forbid the children (even at home) from having any contact with plastic toys of any sort (Legos, the best toy ever invented, are evil!). Children are also taught a sort of dance movement called"eurythmy" which has religious overtones as well, having to do with the belief in past lives.
    I'm not necessarily advocating against — just suggesting that you be clear on the underlying religious philosophy, and accept that as part of the experience.

  15. I wanted to respond to the part of this about reading. I did not go to pre-school. My mother reads a lot and my father too, but to a lesser degree. I couldn't wait to go to school and learn how to read. Then I got into kindergarten and found out that we were not going to learn to read until first grade (do kids actually need an entire year to learn to write their names and color between the lines). I was so disappointed and felt like school let me down (only the first of many times) that I sat down the following Saturday morning and taught myself how to read. The book was Hop on Pop. I was always ahead on reading because of course eventually kids books get boring. I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade. I've been an avid reader my whole life (31 now), there has been no reading fatigue. My brother on the other hand had some trouble learning how to read and didn't really get reading until 3rd grade. But he's also a big time reader as an adult, so he did recover. I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make with my story, but I so vividly remember my disappointment when I found out they weren't going to teach us to read that I felt like it was worth adding to the discussion.

  16. My children (a 3 year old and twin boys in second grade) go to a Waldorf School. They do introduce reading in first grade, but they don't pressure them to be at a certain level. They give them time to "break the code" of reading on their own schedule. By the end of first grade half the class was reading chapter books and the other half was reading easy readers, but no one was stressed about it. They teach writing from the first day of first grade and often kids learn to read without noticing because they have been writing letters and words and then sentences and they are ready when the reading light clicks on. What I love so much is that all the things Waldorf is based on – letting kids play, spending time in nature, focus on motor skills and physical development in the early years have all been shown to be extremely beneficial to neurological development. The reason we sacrifice so much to send them to this school is that the kids in their school leave after 8th grade still loving to learn, still intellectually curious, still excited about school. I feel like all the busy work and testing imposed upon kids just wears them out and by the time they get to high school they are burned out and exhausted.
    In the grades all snacks and lunches are sent from home, but there are guidelines (no sweets or products with licensed characters on them). In the early childhood classes they make a snack every day. In my daughter's class Mondays is brown rice (with a little soy sauce if they want), Tuesday is steel cut oatmeal (with a tiny bit of maple syrup) and Wednesday is fresh baked whole grain bread and butter. For school birthdays they bake birthday muffins (an applesauce muffin) instead of cupcakes. There is a real effort to feed them food that really nourishes.

  17. I don't think it's WHEN the kids learn to read, but more the WHY and the HOW.

    I learned to read early, too early for me to remember, and now I'm an avid reader. I think the difference is that my mom loves reading and she passed that value on to me. I also never needed to learn phonics, because I learned by seeing the words as my mom read them to me.

    I would guess that if reading is presented as a fun activity, it will be generally absorbed easier than if it's presented as a lesson.

  18. Styrofoam postcard sound like a great idea! Putting that aside, i like the Waldorf school approach toward learning in pretty much everything but learning to read late. My mother taught me to read when i was about 3yrs old and i've loved books ever since. I never lost interest in books even after computers became such a huge part of life. I don't think reading fatigue is real, but then i didn't learn to read at school.

  19. Hi, I found you on Reddit. Your school lunches look much better than the pop corn chicken and pizza bites our kids get. You might want to read this recent article I did on the squirrel populations in our area and why the ones that eat out of the school dumpster are the least healthy. It is a stark example of cause and effect and why my kids have always taken their lunches to school. Please see the article here if you wish to check it out Best of luck in your crusade! Alex@amoderatelife

  20. I've never heard of reader fatigue and think that's a weird idea. I read early in life and spent most of gradeschool having my mom or aunt check out books from the adult (as opposed to kid) section of the library because the books were only available by age. I still love to read and can zoom through a good book in a day. My dad doesn't love to read; he reads magazine and newspapers for information but doesn't read for pleasure – his sister was an avid reader.

    Everyone should learn how to read, early so that problems can be corrected; but not everyone will love to read. I can't imagine someone getting tired of reading just because they started early. That's the same arguement that people give for not having early sex. You'll be tired of it if you start too soon. Ha!!!

  21. Just came across this article on MSNBC about the USDA possibly banning potatoes from school lunches and of course the UPROAR that is following. Every comment is about how we need to stop attacking the noble potato and that it is a nutritional powerhouse. However, what people fail to acknowledge is that kids are not eating a baked potato with the vitamin filled skin lightly dressed with a little butter or salsa as the grain or carb portion of a meal like we would at home, they are eating nutritionally void deep fried tater tots and french fries and having those count as a vegetable! Interesting article, but again I feel like the government is taking a hacksaw to the regulations instead of a moderate approach. Why ban potatoes completely? Why not do a healthier, oven baked fries or steamed baby red potato option as one of the grains and then bump up the REAL veggies? So much silliness and extremism instead of balanced, reasonable things that could really help our kids.

    Here is the article if anyone is interested:

  22. I think though starting reading that late doesn't give you the proper time to identify reading issues like dyslexia. It opens up that child with reading disabilities to a world of pain and humiliation that they wouldn't necessarily understand at an early age.

    I like the idea of the real broccoli but did they serve it with ranch? I know that's weird to ask but usually there is ranch involved in some way for the meals that have raw carrots on the side. Wondering if that would make a difference for kids that are on the fence about eating the broccoli.

  23. Hi there,

    I just wanted to comment on the reading thing. I'm a teacher too, but at a language immersion school. (The kids are taught in the target language all day- every subject!).

    At my school, formal "English reading" isn't introduced until 2nd grade, and even then, it's only 30 minutes, 2x week. Reading is taught in the foreign language beginning in first grade. It's amazing though, to see students be able to read in a foreign language, and then pick up English reading just as easily. We try to discourage parents from actively teaching English reading skills at home before second grade, but students are picking it up anyways.

    I just thought that it's an interesting addition to the reading discussion, since our kids are also learning English reading at such a late age!

  24. Thanks for the wide variety of great comments! I absolutely agree that children with special needs might struggle with this approach to reading. I believe that the current educational system, however broken, is the best option for children with special needs. IDEA and FAPE (special education laws) only apply in a public setting from what I understand.

  25. At the school we worked at, the oranges were cut into quarters, but not all the way through. That way, they were sliced, and very easily pulled apart, but still a whole orange that was simple to put on a tray. Food for thought. 🙂

  26. I don't really agree with the "tiring of reading" concept. I was a keen reader as a child, and was able to read and write well before I started school. (I started school aged 4, so I must have been 3 when I learned.) I'm still an avid (and very fast) reader, and language comes naturally to me. I have fond memories of sitting on my mother's lap as she read me a book, and I like seeing that my 2-year-old niece enjoys the experience as much as I did. I think that sometimes, a positive childhood experience, as opposed to pressure and stress, can be all a child needs.

  27. For a variety of reasons – not having anything to do with Waldorf schools – I did not learn to read until second grade. I'm now an attorney who reads for a living, so my late start clearly did not cause any problems in the long run. To me, the key should be asking what is right for each individual child – a kid who's excited to start reading age age four should be encouraged, but a kid who lacks interest at age five may be discouraged if forced to learn then.

  28. You should cut the tray into sections and have the everyone write one thing they don't like about school lunches. Similar to what they did with the paper plates, and send them to the president!

  29. My suggestion is to save up all of your trash for one month, and then once you have "outed" yourself as being Mrs. Q, take it to a school board meeting. Or visit the superintendent, or the person who is ultimately responsible for meals and meal planning.

  30. When I was in elementary school, the "wacky" fifth grade teacher had the entire elementary school save all our styrofoam containers from McDonalds (remember when the sandwiches came that way? Am I dating myself?) and then one morning went and dumped them all over the front lawn of the local McDonalds. It made quite the statement, and as I recall, coincidentally or not, McDonald's switched the the cellophane wrappers not long after.

    Raw broccoli though? Ick…not without loads of dressing. I love broccoli, but at the very least, it needs to be steamed before I'll eat it plain. Surprised to see how many people enjoy it raw though.

  31. IDEA and FAPE also apply for private or home schooled children (assuming this is a parental preference), but not in the same way. They get what is known as the "proportionate share", which is basically a division problem. budget/number of IEP kids, usually pans out to therapists coming into the child's enviroment for a couple hours a month or whatever. Not usually a great option. There are many children who go to a private school at public expense, because it was deemed appropriate by the case conference committee, under IDEA and FAPE. So there are many different situations out there.
    P.S. That chicken patty is covered in gluten. Sorry.

  32. Can kids take food out of the lunchroom?
    You have mentioned several times that no one has time to peel and eat oranges – you've also mentioned once or twice that you've saved things to snack on later. So my REAL question is – can kids take home the orange to eat later? Can they eat them in your classroom at the end of the day? If the lunchroom won't cut them, is there a way around it??

  33. Fresh broccoli and they didn't give you ranch dressing to dip it in? That's awesome! It's a nice message that vegetables are good on their own and don't need to be slathered with condiments to make them taste good. I love that some of your students tried it.

    And I just don't understand why they bother giving kids whole fruit like an orange when they barely have time to eat their hot food. It just goes in the trash! How sad!

    I remember when I was in school that if your teacher let you out of class late or you were near the end of the lunch line you barely got your food and sat down before it was time to go back to class. And that was 20 years ago! It's a shame because it does a real disservice to the kids and to the lunch workers who put their effort into prepping the food, whatever that entails.

    Keep up the good work Mrs. Q! Perhaps you can offer to let your students bring their fresh fruit back from lunch and eat it during class. Would that be allowed?

  34. On waiting to introduce reading, I have a couple of thoughts on that.

    In terms of fatigue, I don't think you can burn out a kid who likes reading. Case in point, my eldest who is now 11. He couldn't wait to read. In fact, I have a photo of him at age 2, lying on the couch with a copy of King Lear (no pictures), *willing* himself to read. He was figuring out phonics on his own at 3, reading simple words at 4, reading full sentences at 5, reading chapter books at 7. He was reading at the college level when he was 10, but that may be more of a statement about the reading level of college kids than him. He just loves words and stories, always has and always will.

    My middle kid has more trouble with reading. When she was six, she said, "If t-o spells to and g-o spells go, I'm never going to learn how to read." She's a super concrete thinker, and she was easily frustrated when learning phonics or spelling rules, only to have the same rules broken almost immediately. So, waiting to introduce reading to her until 3rd grade (which is where she is this year) may have made sense, because she's finally able to understand abstract concepts better now.

    Jury is still out on my youngest, age 6.

    BTW, I've been questioning the school lunch program at our school, and have resorted to sending cold lunch every day, especially after some food poisoning incidents. The head of the cafeteria responded to my letter, "I agree that our food isn't the best, but that's what the government provides."

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