From birth to age 12 Richard, or Dick, as he was called by his family, lived in his parents' home in Hopewell Cape that was almost directly across the road from the local school. The school in Hopewell Cape was typical of most small one room school houses: rows of desks and seats affixed to the floor, slate black boards on the walls and a small wood burning stove for heat.
R.B. was an inconsistent student in his studies during his education at the school in Hopewell Cape. His marks varied by semester from an average high of 95% to a low of 60%. Some of the inconsistency can be explained by his lengthy absences from school during the summer months. It was typical of many boys to help their families by working on the farm in the summer and studying school during the winter when there was less work to do. Despite his often inconsistent marks R.B. did achieve an average of 93% for the term ending April of 1883 for which he was awarded a prize of $2.50.
R.B.'s teacher for most of his years at the school in Hopewell Cape was a man named William J. Jones. Later in life R.B. often credited Mr. Jones with instilling in him a love of learning. R.B.'s future skills as a public speaker were undoubtedly founded while attending school in Hopewell Cape. Mr. Jones would have his students stage plays at the school, like Mary Queen of Scots. Childhood friends of R.B. would later recall the last scene of the play where the axe man, played by R.B., was preparing to behead Mary Queen of Scots. The dramatic reading of the final poem by R.B. showed that even as a young boy he was developing into an excellent orator. Mr. Jones also organized a mock parliament and selected R.B. as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives. The final session of the mock parliament was held at the Albert County Court House in Hopewell Cape.
The final address by 'Prime Minister' Bennett held the audience spellbound and he received many compliments on his ability as an orator and suggestions that he should study law and go into politics.
R.B.'s mother, Henrietta, who was herself a former school teacher, also instilled a great love of learning in him. He grew up with her reading him the works of Longfellow, Tennyson, and later Byron and Milton. She also taught him the science of mathematics and the history of England and other great empires. Despite his inconsistent marks in school, R.B. gathered a wealth of knowledge that would serve him well throughout his life.
At the age of 12 R.B. moved with his family to the other end of Hopewell Cape, to the Bennett Homestead, across the road from the Bennett Shipyard and wharf.