Six-year-old Lily starts school in Germany in September, the first of my kids to do so. She's very excited and has been crafting her 'Schultute' for weeks. This is a large, cone-shaped, cardboard creation that every German schoolkid takes with them on their first day. Luckily for me, at Lily's kindergarten this process is done with the help of the teachers – at others, the parents have to do it. "Basteln" (crafting) is big here, and a Bastel-Mummy I am not. My job is to purchase and fill the Schultute with little presents. This is something I AM good at.
Anyway, down at the playground I meet a Scottish friend whose son will be "eingeschult" with Lily. While idly chatting, she drops a bombshell: apparently there are enough children whose parents are of Evangelical pursuit (that would be not Catholic) to have one class of Evangelical kids. There will be a second class of Catholic kids, and the rest (Muslims, aetheists, agnostics, sky worshippers) in a third class.
I'm like WHAT?!?! Given Germany's recent past, is this not a little tasteless? Lily happens to be of non-church-going Evangelical background, but I want my child mixing with all kids of all religions. I want her meeting Muslims and skyworshippers. I want her to hang out with Catholics. In fact, some of her best friends are Catholics.
I run it past some of the other mummies on the playground and they're all as shocked as me. We decide I should talk to Lily's kindergarten teacher and ask her how to proceed, because, if this is the case, I don't want to send my kid to this school. I'm immediately envisaging sending her to the Walldorf school in the next village.
So I speak to the lovely Frau K this morning. I tell her I've heard a rumour on the playground and that I can't believe it. Frau K looks at me and says, yes, that's true, the children are divided by religion. I say, but isn't that illegal in Germany. She looks taken aback and says no, that's how it was when she was at school (she's in her thirties) and as far as she knows, that's how it is now. I'm spluttering; who can I talk to, I don't want this for my child, it's shocking, it's appalling. My little world is falling apart.
And then Ricky's mother, who is at that moment dropping Ricky off, overhears the discussion (perhaps it was the high-pitched squeaking from me) and says yes, Charlotte, they are divided by religion, but only once a week for religious instruction. So Lily's still going to be going to school in Ladenburg, and my little piece of German heaven is still in place.