About Sarah

I'm Sarah Tan, a mother of 2 boys. They are born almost 3 years apart. I write about parenting, preschool education, and learning.

Taekwondo Lessons

We first thought about letting El join taekwondo after he was beaten up by Gar yet again. I asked him which martial arts he was interested in for self defence, and he mentioned taekwondo in between sobs. His friend had talked about it and showed some photos during a show-and-tell session in K2.

I thought it was enough to let El join, but Gar seemed to have the talent for martial arts. After all, he was punching and doing splits since long ago. I contacted El’s friend’s mother and after weeks of arranging (due to travel and illnesses), the children could finally go for it. They had fun during the trial class, so I signed both of them up.


Unfortunately, due to travel and illnesses again, we missed quite a lot of lessons in December, so their progress was slow. They started learning end of last year, but it was only last week that they took their grading test.

What do I like about their taekwondo class?

1. The boys get to have fun! The teachers let them play with balls, freeze, and other obstacle courses. They train them in different aspects.

2. They get to learn discipline. They are taught to respect their parents, instructors and peers. The instructors even taught them how to fold their belt and uniform.

3. They get to learn how to kick and also follow a set of pattern that would earn them new belts.

4. As a number of the instructors are Korean, the children learn a few simple phrases such as ‘kamsahamnida’, ‘annyeong hasayeo’ and a few others. I hear Gar repeating this sometimes in his own play. I realised that I could understand a few more phrases when the instructors speak to the Korean children in Korean based on my immersion from Korean dramas.

5. There are many children from different nationalities such as Korean, Chinese, European and American. This allows the children to be exposed to other cultures.


There were occasions when Gar became very shy or scared. He simply refused to go to class sometimes or he would run back to me. It could be due to the teachers counting in Korean, or a student bumping into him, or him tripping over and hurting himself, or a student asking where his brother was. The teachers would try to coax him back with stickers. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. Once, when he was supposed to have an extra class, he only participated for 10 minutes and then felt so upset by a boy’s innocent remarks that he remained with me for the rest of the 50 minutes.

Thank goodness the children were finally ready for the grading test. El had been quite steady. Gar got his steps mixed up occasionally, but his poses looked better. He was slightly slower in the first few steps, but he caught up and completed the steps properly during the grading test. There were so many children, at least 25 of them going for the white belt test, where they would aim to get a white belt with a yellow tip. It was so crowded, so after I waved to them to the room, I went downstairs to watch them on the screen.

I hope they would both get their belts and move on to higher grades soon.

Gifted Characters In Korean And Japanese Dramas

The Korean Wave, known as Hallyu, has been sweeping Asia and the rest of the world in terms of entertainment for years, and there is no sign of abating. With East Asian countries placing strong emphasis on academics and other areas such as music, it is no wonder that some of the lead characters in dramas are gifted.

Many of the characters are young male students who easily top their studies, and good looks are mandatory. Many are portrayed with mega memories. Some are talented in sports as well. They are sometimes portrayed with inflexibility, with a strong sense of justice. Some have poor social skills. Some might be caricatures, but the actors and actresses who portrayed them were usually convincing. Most of them become better characters at the end of the show.

gifted characters in korean and japanese dramas header

Since romance is a key component in dramas, sometimes the male gifted characters are paired with female characters who are very weak in their studies, and are full of romantic ideals. The two female gifted characters mentioned here have to hide their identities in one way or another. The last time where there was a very strong female gifted character, it was Jang Guem (Chang Jin) in Jewel in the Palace (2003), a girl in historic Korea who manages to be an expert chef and then a medical doctor in the imperial court.

Who are some of the gifted characters in some of the Korean and Japanese dramas in recent years? Let’s check them out. Note: I have not watched that many drama serials, so these are based on what I have watched and enjoyed recently.

1. Choi Taek, professional Baduk player in Reply 1998 (2015/2016)
park bo gum reply 1988
This highly successful third installment of the Reply/Answer Me series, where the audience tries to guess who the husband of the lead actress is, showcases Choi Taek (played by Park Bo Gum) as a professional Baduk (Go, or Weiqi) player. He is said to have an IQ of 139 (if I remember correctly). He is a teenage world class player who beats much older Baduk players from Japan and China. Despite having dropped out of school just to turn professional with hordes of ardent fans, he remains grounded when he is with his family and friends.

When it comes to Baduk, he behaves like an adult, masking his feelings and playing with a poker face, during competitions. He frequently has marathon matches, and gets headaches easily. With his highly competitive nature, he solves Rubik’s Cubes easily and gets the highest scores in arcade games. However, when it comes to daily activities, he is unable to handle them and depends on his family and friends to look after him. He needs help with tying shoelaces, boiling water and other simple tasks.

Park Bo Gum, the actor, memorises Baduk moves from real competitions, and has received high acclaim for his performance in this show.

2. Trash Oppa, Kim Jae Joon, medical student in Reply 1994 (2013)
jung woo reply 1994

In this second instalment, it is not explicitly mentioned that Trash Oppa, played by Jang Woo, is gifted. However, he is shown to be extremely good in his studies without having to put in extra effort. As a first year resident, he is quick to identify the problem in a patient based on medical charts and prescribes a detailed diagnosis when all the other students are unable to do so.

However, he is nicknamed as Trash, because he is extremely messy in his habits, and is able to eat expired food and spoilt food without having any problem to his health. His house is so dirty that it is filled with garbage, empty beer cans, old food packages, and dirty and clean clothes in the same pile.

Nevertheless, he is able to interact very well with people and patients, showing his high EQ as well. Elderly and young patients ask for him due to his good bedside manners. He is also an excellent soccer player, who easily turns matches around with his deft soccer skills.

3. Yoon Yoon Jae, high school/law school student, judge in Reply 1997 (2012)
seo in guk reply 1997
In this first instalment, Yoon Jae, played by Seo In Guk, is the top student in his high school in Busan, and is the quiet brooding type. Apart from being good at studies, he is good at sports too. He is the top scorer in the whole of South Korea for his high school examinations. However, he wants to be an airforce pilot because he wants to impress a girl whose grades are average, but great at writing fan fic. In the end, he goes to the law faculty in Seoul University, and becomes one of the youngest judges who is extremely impartial and inflexible. He has a close group of friends.

4. Yoon Tae Woong, teacher/computer programmer/CEO in Reply 1997 (2012)
song jong ho reply 1997
Tae Woong is Yoon Jae’s elder brother. He is also the top scorer for the national examinations, but gives up his chance to go to Seoul University to remain in Busan to look after his younger brother since both parents passed away. After his brother finishes his studies, he starts his own company and set up ILoveSchool website, similar to Friendster, to connect friends with their old schoolmates. He becomes very rich. He is a gifted computer programmer who can debug easily and codes in a very short period of time, sometimes even doing his employees’ work. After that success, he goes on to create another big success, similar to Myspace. At the height of his company success, he sells off his shares and goes to be a lecturer in the university. He even becomes a presidential candidate.

5. Lee Sun Jae, gifted pianist in Secret Love Affair (2014)
yoo ah in secret love affair

He is a gifted pianist in his twenties, having picked up the piano on his own through watching videos online and downloading sheet music. To learn a piece, he listens to a recording hundreds of times and memorises it. He does not realise how talented he is since he comes from a very poor family. He improvises music meant for duets, and he changes notes due to his finger injury.

A former talented pianist, a married woman in her forties, discovers his talent and gets him into a university music programme on a scholarship. In the process, he connects emotionally with her when they played duets together and they fall in love with each other. This drama series has a lot of virtuoso performances.

The actor, Yoo Ah In, learnt to play the piano for the drama and has been lauded for his performance. He would memorise the difficult pieces and play it for real, instead of many actors who pretend to play.

6. Kim Yoon Hee, gifted female scholar who disguises as a boy in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
park min young sungkyunkwan scandal

This is a fusion period drama set in the late Joseon period (18th century). Only men were allowed to study. Kim Yoon Hee (played by Park Min Young) cross dressed as a boy in order to earn a living as a writer. She ghost writes theses for scholars in Sungkyunkwan, a prestigious Confucian institute for top scholars. When she loses a script, she writes it out again from memory. Her late father was actually a professor at the same institute. When she was young, her father would read to her baby brother difficult works in a room while she stood outside to learn on her own. Her father soon realised her giftedness, but was unable to do much at that time.

Through a series of events, she is ordered by the king to enter the institute. Due to her eagerness to learn, with the promise of food and medicine which she could give to her family and sick younger brother, she assumes her brother’s identity, Yoon Shik, to enter it. She continues to be one of the top scholars in the institute. She even learns archery in a week just to prove herself through sheer determination and hard work.

7. Lee Sun Joon, gifted scholar, son of Left State Minister in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
micky yoochun sungkyunkwan scandal

Lee Sun Joon, played by Micky Yoochun, discovers Yoon Hee’s talent when she is taking the test on the behalf of a client. He exposes her so that she has a chance to go to the institute. At that time, he does not know she is a girl.

He is a gifted scholar as well, and is known for being inflexible.He has a strong sense of justice, and is willing to expose the truth even if it means implicating his own father. Apart from being academically gifted, he is also equally talented in sports. He trains himself to shoot with his left hand after injuring his right shoulder, and is able to shoot the bull’s eye. In order to win the competition, he trains his roommate, Yoon Hee.

He falls for her, thinking he is a homosexual, and even thinks of entering a political marriage just to escape his feelings. However, he could not go through the wedding and chooses to run away just to maintain Yoon Hee’s honour due to the highly conservative nature of the society then.

8. Moon Jae Shin (Geol Oh), gifted scholar and martial arts exponent in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
yoo ah in sungkyunkwan scandal
This character is acted by Yoo Ah In (same actor mentioned earlier). He challenges the system by dressing up as the Red Messenger and is extremely upset by the death of his elder brother, who was the top scholar in Sungkyunkwan. He would leave provocative messages about the truth of the death crown prince Sado and he gets seriously injured from clashes with the military.

Apparently, he is an even better archer than Lee Sun Joon, and he is even smarter than both Kim Yoon Hee and Lee Sun Joon, as he could tell who had the right answer in a competition held by the king. He had read all the books in the library, but he skips classes, refuses to do his work, and pretends to be an average student.

The three scholars and another student, acted by Song Joong Ki (who acted in the recent highly popular Descendants of the Sun and is an extremely intelligent person himself) form Joseon F4, famed for their looks.

9. Jo Min Ja, gifted hacker in Healer (2015)
kim mi kyung healer

This is a rare portrayal in Korean drama land as the gifted characters are usually good-looking young males. She is a woman in her late forties, and she is an expert at hacking into various computers, including the police’s internal computer system, street cameras, and other organisations.

She hides in a room with many fast computers and the latest IT gadgets, including all sorts of tracking devices. Without revealing her identity, she assists Healer, a young guy who is great at Parkour and running all sorts of errands for rich people including the triads for a high fee.

10. Lee Hyun, criminologist, I Remember You/ Hello Monster (2015)
seo in guk hello monster

Acted by Seo In Guk (see number 2), Lee Hyun is a gifted criminologist. When he was young, he was already very mature and could run the household, looking after his younger brother. There was a family tragedy. However, his father, who was a policeman, thought he could be a psychopath, as there were numerous disturbing drawings, and mutilated animals. A mass murderer was on the loose, and due to various circumstances, the father was killed, and the brother went missing.

As an adult, he became a criminologist and was able to profile criminals based on their modus operandi and signatures. He was able to spot details that nobody else could, and crack codes left by criminals, such as latitudes and longitudes coordinates.

However, he is shown to be rather dismissive of people who are not smart, and has a rather abrasive personality at times.

The serial killers in the show are shown to have high intelligence as well, but I will not reveal them here in case it spoils the mystery for you.

This show, and another excellent show, Signal (2016), led me into profiling of criminals. I had actually looked up some information from the FBI, and it was quite insightful on how certain things done by criminals could lead to police zooming in on suspects. Whether a criminal brought a weapon to the scene, or used items from the scene as weapons showed whether the criminal was an organised one or disorganised. This field is fascinating, but extremely gruesome, so I think it will take certain types of personalities to take up such jobs.

11. Irie Naoki, gifted student in Itazura Na Kiss (Love in Tokyo) 2013
furukawa yuki itazura na kiss

There are other versions of this show, It started with a kiss (Taiwanese) and Playful Kiss (Korean). This show is adapted from a manga, and in the Japanese version, Irie-kun is a gifted student, with a rumoured IQ of 200 (What test are they basing this on?). He can memorise things after he has read them once. He could cook a dish after looking a recipe once, and plate it just like the picture.

He tops the examinations easily, and even tops the national entrance exams despite being injured and groggy from medication, with only just 30 minutes. He had demonstrated excellence and interest in various fields, such as science and technology, literature, languages, marketing and medicine.

He is the target of many high school girls, and he gets involved with a girl, Aihara Kotoko, who professes her love for him in front of many people and cruelly rejected. The girl is an average student who is in the last class. Due to an incredible situation where her new house collapses from a meteorite and shoddy workmanship, the girl and her father moves into Irie’s house as the parents are best friends.

He is shown to be mean-spirited, but she manages to blackmail him to tutor her. He easily spots the questions for her, sets her questions to do, and explains them to her. He is also a top tennis player with shots that are extremely powerful and fast. Due to a competition, he is forced to teach her as well, and puts her through a gruelling practice.

12. Hoshikawa Takane, Buddhist monk, From 5 – 9 (2015)
Yamashita Tomohisa 5-ji kara 9-ji made

Takane (played by Yamashita Tomohisa) is a handsome Buddhist monk who is slated to be the next head monk. He is extremely intelligent, having graduated from Tokyo University. He is proficient in English as well, but he attends English classes in order to pursue Sakuraba Junko, an English language teacher. (Note: Monks in Japan are allowed to get married.) He is extremely good at cooking and a lot of other things, and he also shows a very strong interest in natural history, especially dinosaurs and animals. He easily memorises the scriptures so that he could conduct various religious ceremonies. He could remember everything about Junko and has a kind personality.
The only fault is that he is extremely persistent, and is verging on the point of stalking despite Junko telling him she does not like him at all.

13. Hyuga Toru, IT whiz, CEO in Rich Man, Poor Woman (2012)
oguri shun rich man poor woman

Hyuga Toru owns an IT firm, Next Innovation, with his friend. He is extremely intelligent, and able to code extremely well. He has many big hits, and then tries to come up with something that could benefit the public. He can code complex databases, but then he is also able to really identify the users’ needs and rebuilds the whole system just to make it more user-friendly. However, he cannot remember faces, and can be quite rude to people. He suffers betrayal, but is able to bounce back.

14. Yukawa Manabu, Physicist in Galileo 2 (2013)
Fukuyama Masaharu galileo 2

Played by a multi-talented actor/composer/musician/singer, Fukuyama Masaharu, Yukawa is a physicist who is roped in to help the Japanese police solve mysteries by using physics. He is a little eccentric, and is more interested in solving science problems than murder mysteries. Strange occurrences are explained, and it is interesting to see how his brains works. Apparently, the first season was even more exciting.

This blog post is part of a blog hop on Gifted in Pop Culture by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page.

4 Ideas To Engage Your Child During Holidays

The December holiday period is here, and I have two boys who are having their school holidays. What can I do to engage the two boys, aged three and six, so that they will not drive each other crazy (usually it’s the younger one that drives the elder one crazy)? I only have two or three weeks of break before I start working again.

Make and play homemade games
I was at my parents’ place when my mother was throwing out some things. I happened to spot a few laminated A3 paper, and realised that they were some snake and ladders games created for my history students in the past when I was a beginning teacher.

I took them home, and played with my children. It was about a time travelling piece where they get to learn about the trading and travelling history of ancient China and India.
india travels and trade

I had included information about how difficult it was for traders to travel in the jungles in ancient India as there were fierce tribes, and when they reached such boxes, the players would miss a turn or go down a snake. If there were new trade markets opening, the players would get to go again or go up a ladder.
china travels and trade

My children had a lot of fun playing, especially El. He was so excited about the games he asked to play both ancient India and China games a couple of time. He even said he wanted to create his own game. He wanted to do Malaysia at first. Then I suggested Southeast Asia, as that was also part of the former history syllabus. In the end, he wanted to do Thailand.

I discussed some quick facts with him, and then he decided he needed more information. I said I would take him to the library and he wanted to go there the next day.

playing board game

This would be a great way to make use of the holidays as it is the time I really have time with my children, and they would have other things to do in the school term. Making such historical games requires research, and there is the fun element.

Go on a holiday
We were planning a holiday to Australia, and El was really keen to visit the Australia Zoo, managed by the Irwin family. It would be our first overseas holiday ever since he was born, so we felt that going to Brisbane would be a pretty long flight (at least 7 hours) and the air fare was way more expensive than going to Perth. After attending a financial literacy course, El agreed to go to Perth instead since we would save more money.

Since both children like animals and El especially likes nature, we would be going to places such as farm, nature park and zoo. It would be great to expose them to Australian wildlife and other farm animals. I just hope the weather would be fine and not too hot.

They like dinosaurs too, and I googled Dinosaur Perth, and found a great website that collates all the sightings of dinosaurs in Perth. The Perth Museum looks like a great place to start looking! Unfortunately, we have missed a November exhibition, and going to miss something dino-related in January. There is also a theme park, which we may explore if we have the time, although our schedule looks pretty packed.

Looks like we can try the Kings Park. There are some dinosaurs there.

I am also going to pack lots of paper so that they can do some drawing if they are bored. El also asked me to bring along the snake and ladders game, which is very light.

It would be fun to plan holidays together with your children if they are old enough. Read up websites to find out how to save money, and where the best places to go to. As we only made our decision to go there really late, and I was too busy to book accommodation, they were nearly full. I decided to try my luck with airbnb, and it mentioned that only 6% of all the listings were available for my date. It is a house in a suburb, so I hope it will not be too inconvenient for us.

Take up holiday classes
The boys had just taken up taekwondo classes (to protect himself from Gar, who is quite aggressive at times, though both boys are learning it together).

They seem to have so much fun from the class, and they get to expend their energy. They have not received their white belts yet, so they even went to do their own by cutting a piece of paper!

He likes drawing and going for short term art lessons would be more interesting to him. Gar wants to go for art classes too, but he is too young to complete all the drawing and painting. However, he gets so upset that he would even lie when he sees all the paintings belonged to his brother, so going for holiday lessons would be great for him too, just so that he would have his own artwork.

The paintings might have required a lot of guidance from the teachers, but their satisfaction at the end of it is great. They make great décor too.

El requested to go for a science cookery class at the local Community Club, so I signed up a class for him. This will allow him to have fun, and at the same time, hopefully learn something new.

Since he is going to primary school next year, and is pretty weak in the Chinese language, he will go for something more academic in focus. He has a few lessons to attend. I had signed him up for some fun day trips, with immersion in Chinese, but he told me he was still conversing with the other kids in English, so that was not too useful. He had lots of fun though, but I think it may be too tiring to go out the whole day. I am glad he still comes out of the class smiling.

I guess it depends on what your child’s strengths and interests are. Find holiday classes that are suitable for them, and that keeps them occupied. If they have weaknesses in any academic area, it may also be a time to help them catch up. It’s your call (and your children’s).

Make videos
El took his brother’s rabbit project and used it as a prop. He wanted to stage a puppet show or something, then decided he wanted to record it. He then started doing his own videos and called it the Rabbit Show. He had his own commentary, and he also recorded his brother singing about a rabbit. I think the quality is really bad, but hey, even Steven Spielberg has to start somewhere. My secret wish is he can do something like the Hobby Kids, where Gar loves to watch. For now, I just let him use my iPhone to record.

rabbit show
He had been thinking about this a long time. He wants to make his Minecraft commentary videos, but after I read up on how to record iPad games, I think it is far easier to hook up the iPad to the TV via HDMI cable, and then use a video cam to video the TV. The other option is to buy a newer version of the iPad, but I do not see the need to spend that money when the current one is in good condition.

The rest of the time during the holidays, we will probably go to various places of local attractions that are free. If possible, I may just bring the older one to watch a movie. We usually watch at home, because you never know when the younger one gets really scared. I’ve also brought them to a playground recently.

Only less than a month left before I have to go back to work!

This post is part of a blog hop by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page in December on Surviving the holidays. Check out other blogs too.
surviving the holidays

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