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.

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

Financial Literacy Course At Planet J Learning Centre

Moments after attending a financial literacy course conducted at Planet J Learning Centre, I managed to save nearly $5000 by geting El to change his decision of going to Brisbane to Perth for a holiday. Previously, he had refused to consider any alternatives.

Both places are in Australia, but the cost difference is huge. He wanted to go to the Australia Zoo, operated by the Irwin family, but air tickets to Brisbane were twice that of Perth. Since the whole family and my parents would be going together, the cost would be astronomical.

There are also similar animals in Perth, so it should still be a similar experience. This would be our first trip overseas, and the children need to get used to travelling first.

We were invited to Planet J Learning Centre located at Soo Chow Walk, which was right beside Thomson Plaza. It was located on the second floor of a row of shophouses. It is nestled in a quiet private estate, yet close to amenities.

It is a new student care centre, and they offer programmes during the holidays. The place was very pleasant and was renovated. There were a few rooms for classes and students.
planet j room
planet j classroom

While waiting for the class to start, the children were playing a soccer game where they have to move around and kick imaginary balls. El was very excited by that. It is good that it was an active game.

planet j wii

After attending a preview of Raising A Financially Savvy Kid conducted by Ernest Tan, an experienced Certified Financial Planner, Master Money Coach, and Wealth Trainer, El has learnt a few money managing tips. I have also learnt a few tips to help El learn how to manage his money, which would be very important as he is going to Primary One next year.
money jar and raising financially savvy kids book

Ernest asked both the parents and children questions about money first. That allowed us to find out the attitudes children have towards money. When asked what he would do if he did not have money, I was surprised that El said he would work to earn money. I did not talk much about money to him, but I think he knows that both my husband and I work hard to earn money.

Ernest mentioned that some children actually said if they had no money, they would get the money from their fathers. Others said they would get money from the wall. The latter tickled me because my brother used to tell my mother that when she said she had no money to buy new toys for him. These answers worried the trainer as they did not see the value of money.

The children played a few rounds of a board game. It was modelled after Rich Dad Poor Dad’s Cashflow game. They had to make choices, such as to decide whether to save money, spend money or earn money. Sometimes, expenses were not compulsory.
money junior board game

To my surprise, El would spend money to buy sweets and ice cream if there were huge discounts offered. He was modelling my behaviour. I would keep saying no to buying new packages at the beauty salon, but when they start piling me with freebies and discounts, I would cave in.
spending money

There were also certain rules, such as shouting ‘Allowance Day’ in order to get an allowance. I thought it was interesting as children needed to learn rules and at the same time, not get distracted easily. If not, money would be gone.
spinning a die

Up till now, El has not seen his bank book. His father gives him $1 coins so that he could save the money in a piggy bank. However, we did not bring him to deposit this money. Hence, he did not have much of a concept of putting money into the bank to earn interest. When Ernest offered the children $5 interest if they saved $50 with the bank, all of them grabbed the opportunity except for El. He was used to seeing money physically, and thought the money would be gone if he put everything in.
saving two dollars

He also handed his ang pows to us, and my husband and I would be so busy we did not even open them until end of the year, before we put the money into the bank on our own. I think I would make a more conscious effort to take him to the bank.

At the end of the class, we were introduced the money jar system. Instead of giving them the exact amount needed for recess, and then hope that they have some money left over to save, we should pay ourselves first. This is a concept that I do, after reading countless wealth management books. Every month, I would transfer money to my other saving accounts before spending the rest.

For this to take place, parents could give children loose change, so that they can save a portion of it. I had read somewhere before that we should not give daily pocket money, but instead, give weekly pocket money for younger children, and then give monthly pocket money for older children, so that they can learn to manage money.
money jar

This is certainly something I will implement for pocket money when El goes to Primary One next year.

I am extremely pleased with the various strategies both of us had picked up, and I think that children should have financial literacy classes.

After the lesson, the children had some delicious snacks. The children attending student care here would definitely be well taken care of. The cosy centre is well maintained and clean.
planet j kitchen (2)

Serene, one of the owners, explained that the students would have supervision as they did their homework. They would also be given opportunities to go to the nearby park for some outdoor activities. They have weekly discussions on handling various situations the children may encounter in school. If they require private tuition, there would be smaller rooms for them to have their own tutors over. They could even go for their piano lessons as the staff would drive them to their destination, with additional arrangements between parents and the centre.
planet j kitchen
Since more parents work late nowadays, the centre has an Extended Hour Service where they would provide dinner and even drive the students home at 8pm if they live within 5km. Of course, additional services would require additional charges, but I believe for busy parents, the time saved in fetching their children and the knowledge that their children would be in good hands would outweigh this.

There are many other vacation programmes that the centre is holding. They look pretty interesting, such as CSI, Lego robotics, creative writing with lego (which I had seen before), on top of the financial literacy course that we have just attended.

Planet J Holiday Workshops

For more information, visit Planet J Learning Centre website. They are located at 99A Soo Chow Walk Singapore 573784 . You may park at the private estate or at the nearby Thomson Plaza. Call them at Tel: 6451 0080 on weekdays.

Note: El and I were invited to a preview of the financial literacy course for review.

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