Collaborative Storytelling: Liz Peck & Jello

One of the best parts of home school is the collaboration. The figuring IT out together.

I was given permission from my collaborator to share some of IT from this week.

Thorin and I have found a good way to increase reading ability. It is based on the motivating power of self-interest. Thorin creates the stories. He decides what the new words are based on the plot, action, setting, etc. not what he should be learning at that particular moment in time. I put them into sentences with his input.

First step: create a story using mostly words he already reads. This is a confidence building step. Second: create a story using words that may or may not be words he knows how to read but are important to the story.

Thorin created the ‘Liz Peck and Jello’ stories below: narrative, character names, their physical form, actions and setting.

The drawings are his.*

One last thing: if I had a child without Down syndrome I would do the exact same thing. Every child likes to create and every child is motivated by self-interest.



Chapter One

Jello in the Kitchen

Liz Peck** wanted to eat red Jello.

When she looked she could not find the Jello.

She said, “Jello the Ghost you did something funny. You have my Jello.”

Jello is a little white and green ghost. He likes Jello. He would go to Liz Peck’s kitchen to get Jello.

Jello the Ghost

Jello the Ghost

“I want my Jello, please” said Liz Peck.

“No, no, no” said Jello. “I ate it today.”

“Now I have to make Jello again today” said Liz Peck.

Jello jumped up and down. He said, “That is good! Make some for me, too.”

Liz Peck said, “Jello you’re a bad boy! Run away. Go, go, go now!”

He said, “No, I will eat Jello with you. That will be fun.”

Liz Peck said, “Oh, Jello. You’re funny. You can help me make Jello.”

He said, “Good!”

So, soon they made a big, big bowl of red Jello to eat.

Chapter Two

Jello’s Real Name

Jello and his ghost friend Jimmy were dancing in the TV room at Liz Peck’s house.

They were having fun dancing.

Ella the Mouse was by the hole in the wall eating cheese and tap dancing to the music.

Ella the Mouse

Ella the Mouse

Liz Peck walked in the TV room with a plate of cake. She saw the two ghosts.

Jimmy said, ”You are a good dancer, Charley!”

Liz Peck let go of the plate. It fell down the wall.

Ella went in the hole saying, “Squeak! Squeak!”

Liz Peck said, “I did not know your name was Charley!”

Jimmy left to be alone.

*Art for Kids Hub is a most awesome site to learn to draw anything kids can think of. It’s this great guy who draws with his kids.

**Liz Peck is based on a real person and is also known as ‘Grammy Peck’

Sneak peak from the upcoming story: “Bubba and the Robot”



David DeSanctis, an Actor Shattering Stereotypes

This week I had the great good fortune to be offered the opportunity to view the film ‘Where Hope Grows’ and interview the co-star of the film David DeSanctis. I don’t want to ruin anything please go now to read my post on Huffington Post Entertainment.

Yeah, I am branching out:) What are you still doing here? GO!

What I Learned About My Son is the Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever

“I am large, I contain multitudes”

-Walt Whitman

Last August when we started on our journey of home schooling I asked Thorin what he wanted to learn. Without hesitation he said: “Ballet”. I remembered a brief obsession with the dance documentary “First Position” but other than that I couldn’t account for his answer.

Through a friend I found a dance school. The class for his age group was a combination ballet, tap and jazz. I asked Thorin if that was acceptable. He jumped up and down yelling: “Yes, yes, yes!” I stared at him wondering what else didn’t I know about my own son.

I didn’t press for answers. I had made enough mistakes trying to understand his process with his photography.* He knew what he wanted. The WHY of it wasn’t any of my business.

I told him he would be the only boy in the class. “Okay”.

Every Monday night Ward took Thorin to dance class. Thorin left excitedly with his jazz/ballet and tap shoes in his backpack. He wore black leggings and a matching shirt. They were reluctantly covered by sweat pants and various Avenger t-shirts. When he came home he insisted on wearing his dance clothes the rest of night even sleeping in them– he looked as much like a cat burglar as he did a dancer.

Every day he danced—tapping across the kitchen floor, hip shaking jazz routines and pliés followed by a little jump. I was an enthusiastic audience who maintained a respectful distance.

On ‘American Idol’ nights Thorin did elaborate dance moves during the performances using the music and singing as his score. He was entertaining and was a welcome distraction to the unexplainable power and rise of Rayvon Owen over Quentin Alexander, Joey Cook and Tyanna Jones.

In March he came back from class with his dance costume for the May recital. He asked to wear it for Idol. In my mind’s eye I saw him in the yard in it, painting in it—destroying this $50.00 outfit. So I hid it. I distinctly remember saying to myself as I placed it in it’s hiding place: “Why am I putting it here? I never put things here.” Then I answered myself: “This way you will remember!” But in reality I promptly forgot. More on that later.

Ward and I were not convinced Thorin would go through with the dance recital. He took theater during the same period. The classes were in 3 week cycles each with a new mini-play. He loved the class but each time, five minutes leading up to the performance for parents he bailed preferring to sit in the audience. It didn’t bother us because it didn’t bother him. The  theater teacher was philosophical about it: “For him it’s the journey”.

The two weeks leading up to the recital I took Thorin to dance class. I had never even seen the place. Thorin had to tell me what street to turn on, where to park and what door to go in. I learned a little something about myself in those two nights: I was not as serious as the other mothers about dance and I was the only one in the history of the school who lost their kid’s costume.

Pre-recital pose

Pre-recital pose

When I confessed to the owner I had lost it I also said: “I am not convinced he will go through with the recital in the end”. She said: “Miss Aliva has a 100% success rate with recitals. Plan on him following through. Buy black pants, a white shirt and a pink bow tie.”

I was ashamed I had considered he might not follow through and I was anxious at the thought of having to find a pink bow tie.

I did find the costume after tearing the house apart twice. Thorin advising me along the way: “Slow down. It’s fine”. And he would happily wear his : “Hulk costume”.

Thorin’s dance recital was yesterday. He did go through with it, securing Miss Aliva’s 100 % rate. As we watched from the audience I saw how composed Thorin was. He gave us a quick wave but his focus was on the audience as a whole. I saw he was not doing this for us– it was for himself. For nine months he had prepared to perform something he loved doing.


Tiny Dancer

I was crying because at eight-years-old Thorin had figured out something I didn’t learned until my 30’s: Do what you love for no one else but yourself.

My guess is the greater part of parenting is not getting in the way of your child becoming who they are.

* For other posts on Thorin’s photography:  POV, Shutter Bug,Warholian Selfies, T’s Photos of Sally’s Garden  Picture This, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Boy and Typical Images from 45 & 68 Inches.

Reprinted on: Huffington Post and The Good Men Project