Biene contributed this post.
As I already mentioned, my dad prepared us well for school. Before every lesson in his roomy study, he would say in English, “I am your teacher.” He wanted to acquaint us with a foreign language early on in life. He refused to teach us Russian, which would have been more helpful in a communist state controlled by the Soviet Union. Math was always fun. My brother and I had competitions in mental math, which I would usually win. Until my last years in high school, I consistently outperformed my brother. But then he surpassed me, and I could never catch up. Calculus was my downfall.
We had to memorize poems, ballads and, of course, lots of folk songs, which we would sing on long hikes in the beautiful forests of Thuringia. Most of the songs are still fresh in my mind. They bring back happy memories of picking berries, swimming in rivers and lakes, and picnics under beautiful trees. My dad would tell us legends and fairy tales often connected to the region’s folklore on these outings. Since the German language has fairly consistent phonetic rules, I learned reading almost on my own before entering school.
The famous German “Zuckertüte” or sugar cone bag originated in Thuringia near Gotha. This giant, brightly decorated cone-shaped paper bag was filled with chocolates, candies and other delicacies or little gifts to “sweeten” the first day of school. I wished we had a picture of ours. But at that time, my parents did not have the means to buy films.
We only had a few hours of school every morning for the first few years, including Saturdays. Students were expected to do homework and practice their new skills after school. Since my brother and I were fast learners, we had lots of free time to play when we returned home for lunch.