We asked Ruby Lou, the girl who taught Peter Gray to ride a bike when he was 5 and she was 6, sending him off on his life's journey studying the importance of free play, how it felt to be such an important teacher. She graciously replied:
As I look back I don't feel I was a teacher. I feel I was an
enabler, a friend. When he wanted to learn to ride a bike,
I was a friend that loaned him mine and gave him some tips.
As a friend.
When he wanted to climb higher in the tree, I climbed higher because
I knew he would follow me. I was a friend.
And when I felt bad about my grandfather dying, HE was a friend
and felt bad that I felt bad.
I didn't feel I taught him, I felt he had a friend and I had a friend.
I am very pleased that we were able to reunite 68 years later.
To answer the other comment: There were very few kids in my
neighborhood. I was an only child. It was a very small town
and quite spread out. I was very happy that someone my
age moved right across the street from me.
Friendship. Simple. Profound. Life-changing.
Ruby Lou -- now Ruby Swift Wolens -- put that back into perspective. We are so worried about our kids getting enough "education" these days that we almost categorize our kids' activities by whether they are officially learning something or not. And since often people think playing is NOT educational -- it's "just fun" -- we pro-play people have taken to pointing out all the education that is happening: Focus! Resilience! Risk assessment!
But of course education is a byproduct of friendship, it's not the goal and it's not even the most important part. Friendship is a huge gift in life -- even huger (?) than the gift of learning to climb a tree. - L.S.