Making Friends:

Kiera, Dane, and Annie Bennion of Beaverton, Oregon

Written by Robin B. Lambert

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Kiera (11), Dane (10), and Annie (7) Bennion know the true meaning of family togetherness. While most families see each other only in the morning, after school, or on weekends, the children in the Bennion family see each other all day long, every day. That’s because the Bennions don’t go to a regular public school like most of the children in Beaverton—they and their brothers and sisters have school at home, with their mom as their teacher. Home schooling isn’t for everyone, but the Bennions felt that it was necessary for them.

“We really wanted to focus on family unity and self-worth,” their mother, Sandy, explains. So she and her husband, Gary, looked into the possibility of teaching their children themselves. They found out that their local school district allowed them to do so as long as they registered with the district and made sure that the children passed a state test once a year. After fulfilling these requirements, Sandy was given permission to teach her eight children in their own home.

Recently, as a home school project, they had a preschool in which the five older children—Aaron, Brittany, Kiera, Dane, and Annie—taught the three younger ones—Michelle (6), Ammon (4), and Lehi (2), as well as eleven other paying students. It was a good experience for them all, but not an easy one. “Sometimes it was pretty hard to keep the smaller kids under control,” Kiera admits.

During the school year (they usually get summers off, like regular school), the family starts off each day with a devotional. They wake up early and gather in the living room, where they say a prayer, sing hymns, and read the Bible. “We read our Book of Mormon at night,” Annie adds. The family also uses this time to practice singing. They enjoy singing in parts and sometimes prepare musical numbers to perform for a special event like their ward talent show.

They also do an annual Christmas “open house,” where they go caroling at a number of houses in their ward and neighborhood. Everyone who hears them delights in the Bennions’ performances. The practicing is hard, and sometimes performing is scary, but all their hard work pays off in the joy they bring to other people through their music.

Of course, the family isn’t always practicing for a performance. Most of the time, they just sing hymns or fun songs together. According to Dane, they may not perform for others more than five or six times a year, but they’re always singing on their own.

While the whole Bennion family is special, each of the children stands out with his or her own unique talents and personality. One time when Kiera was three years old, her parents took her to see her cousins perform in a band in which they played violins. That night at home, Kiera walked in with her mother’s high heel shoe tucked under her chin and a screwdriver in her hand, pretending to play the shoe like a violin. Now she takes lessons on a real violin and on a piano, but it’s easy to see that her love for music started long ago.

Dane is considered the family mechanic. He likes to tinker with things and figure out how they work. When he grows up, he wants to be a pilot or an engineer because he likes planes and he likes fixing things. He visits the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science Industry) to see the neat things that they have there. Dane also has a playful streak. He’s always making funny faces in photographs or teasing his brothers and sisters.

Annie, short for Annelise, likes to wear bright colors like red and yellow. Anyone who knows her enjoys her happy smile and playful, fun-loving nature. She’s very adventurous and wants to be a mountain climber someday, if not a famous singer. She has a great voice for being only seven.

One of the fun things about the Bennion family is that all the boys have Book of Mormon names: Aaron, Dane Nephi, Ammon Jared, and Lehi. Dane says that he would like to be more like Nephi because his middle name is Nephi.

While Annie doesn’t have a Book of Mormon name, she says she wants to be like Nephi, too, because she’s like Dane and Dane is like Nephi. Kiera’s favorite Book of Mormon story is about the Brother of Jared and how he was able to see Jesus Christ because of his great faith. She knows that everyone on earth has the opportunity to earn that same blessing if they are faithful and obedient to the commandments of God.

The Bennions love to do active things together. Almost every member of the family has his or her own bike. One of their favorite vacations is to camp with their ward on the coast, an hour and a half away, and ride their bikes on the roads and trails there. Dad has also promised the family a long biking trip in Utah in the near future.

There are lots of fun things to do at home too. They have a basketball hoop in front of their house, and all the kids spend lots of time practicing. They also like climbing the tree in their backyard, jumping on their trampoline, or picking blackberries for Mom to make into a pie.

Another member has just joined the family. Little Moroni was born in October 1997, bringing great joy to his family. He is showered with affection from his eight brothers and sisters. After all, there always will be plenty of love for one more in this large, talented, fun-loving family.

Photographed by Robin B. Lambert

(Background photo) Multnomah Falls is one of nearby Portland’s most famous and breathtaking waterfalls.

1. The Bennion family takes up a lot of space as they come down the stairs from church.

2. Picking blackberries is a Bennion summer tradition.

3. Basketball is one of the family’s favorite sports. Here, Dane and Annie play a little one-on-one.

4. Look how many Bennions you can fit into one tree!

5. Singing around the piano

6. Kiera practices her dribble.

7. The Bennion family, Christmas 1995 (back): Mom (Sandy), Dad (Gary), (middle): Aaron (holding Lehi), Kiera, Brittany, (front): Ammon, Annie, Michelle, and Dane. Dane is obviously the joker of the family.