Israel Wayne: In what year did you begin homeschooling, and what was your initial reason to start home educating?
Vicki Bentley: We began homeschooling the first time in 1988 and I really don’t recall the exact reason. It wasn’t a religious conviction so much as it was a gentle nudging. I remember that our daughter asked us to teach her at home, so we hunted up a correspondence course advertised in the back of a Christian women’s magazine. We had met a woman who homeschooled “underground” about three years earlier, and we had just met a family who homeschooled two wonderful teens — that was the extent of our homeschool exposure.
Israel Wayne: What obstacles did you face in attempting to homeschool (resistance by family, legal threats, lack of access to resources, social stigmas, etc.)?
Vicki Bentley: My main obstacle that first year was lack of encouragement. We did great the first few weeks, sort of “winging” it with a learning lifestyle (which probably would have been a great fit for that child long-term), but then the boxes of books arrived, and the troubles began. I knew nothing of learning styles or teaching styles, and there was nobody to talk to back then–or at least, we didn’t have any connections. [In reality, I discovered later that a homeschool friend I met years later in Virginia had actually lived about eight houses from me, around the corner, when we first began homeschooling — but neither of us knew the other homeschooled at the time!]
So, thinking the problems we were having were because I was clueless, I put my daughter back in school, where she had similar issues in that new environment–because the issue had been a maturity issue with her, not so much a homeschooling problem with us. It wasn’t until two years later, in a new state, that we made the commitment to homeschool all the remaining children, and got connected with the homeschooling community for parental support and for opportunities for our children.
Israel Wayne: In what ways were/are you involved in serving the homeschooling community?
Vicki Bentley: In 1991, when we moved to a new state and began homeschooling all our younger children (the olders had graduated from public school by this time), there was no support. So a local mom and I got together with a few friends and began networking, planning field trips, inviting folks to our homes for meetings– and our local support group was born. I have been privileged to be involved in homeschool leadership on a local, state, and national (even international, I guess you’d say) for 24 years now.
Israel Wayne: What do you wish had known when you first started homeschooling? What would you do differently?
Vicki Bentley: All we parents know to do is what WE did, so we tried to re-create “school at home.” Now I wish I’d had the information and the confidence to develop a learning lifestyle from the very beginning.
Israel Wayne: What trends have you seen in homeschooling today that concern you? Do you see new things about homeschooling today that you appreciate?
Vicki Bentley: For many parents, homeschooling is all about academics. Yes, academics are important, but in the context of God’s purpose for our lives and the relevance of the subject matter. Young children should be allowed structured play for longer, as desired — not rushed into maturity, skipping games and activities that are deemed “non-academic” when they would, in fact, help children build brain connections and give them hooks on which to hang their future learning. ( This is a passion of mine — I’ve written on this topic at HSLDA’s site at www.hslda.org/preschool and in newsletters and Homeschool Heartbeat series. )
Israel Wayne: What advice would you give to young families who are just starting out of the homeschooling journey?
Vicki Bentley: Enjoy your children! Enjoy each stage. Love on them. Remember that the one thing that your child does that absolutely drives you bonkers may be just the thing God gave them to accomplish His purpose – your job is to help develop and direct that quality in a way that brings glory to God and maturity to your child.
Israel Wayne: Please tell us what life is like for you today, and give us an update on your family.
Vicki Bentley: After homeschooling seventeen children (including some of our many foster children over a 20-year period), we now have 20 grandchildren, and our second great-grandbaby is due soon. We are blessed to have five of our daughters close by, and treasure our family times. Although our youngest is 26 years old, I am still active in our local support group and in homeschool ministry, and my husband is instrumental in the battle for parental rights in our states and our nation.
Israel Wayne: Please share anything else that you think might be of value to our readers.
Vicki Bentley: Although nowadays you can find all sorts of information on the internet–and that can be a huge blessing– please also connect with a local homeschool group for encouragement and support. Even if you don’t think you need it, someone there needs you!
Also, as I said in the July HSLDA newsletter: “Home education is not a cure-all or instant fix. In fact, it will most likely bring out some character or relational issues that have been hiding in the busy-ness, and now you’ll be faced with them on a daily basis. Your family is a work in progress! Life is messy sometimes. Homeschooling is messy sometimes. But it’s worth it.”