Sitting in the boys’ living room with their mother and hearing about the scholarships and honors Austin and Tyler Burdick will be taking with them to the University of Virginia in the fall, a less intrepid reporter might wonder just where these Flint Hill kids went to high school.
The answer to such a dumb question, of course, would be: right here.
“This room probably more than others,” says Tyler, who, though identical to his 18-year-old brother, is wearing a slightly different jersey bearing the insignia of the University — where both boys also have earned scholarships to play polo. “But really the whole house has been our classroom — and the whole farm.”
Yes, intrepid one, the Burdicks were in fact home-schooled since the beginning of their school days by parents Todd and Jane Burdick on the Crest Hill Road farm where the family raises sheep and horses, and where Todd Burdick bases his equine veterinary practice.
Theirs is a success story — between them, the two won nearly a dozen scholarships — not always told by those who choose the harder road that homeschooling presents.
“I’m sure there were certain aspects of things we may have missed [not attending a school],” Tyler says, smiling as he politely answers another intrepid question. “But I feel I’ve learned a lot more here than I could have otherwise.”
Austin puts his finger on it. “We were able to accomplish much more here because we had the freedom to study what we wanted — and that does take discipline.”
Mother Jane is smiling and nodding.
The Burdicks graduate summa cum laude this month from a novel Catholic-Igniatian-Classical/Great Books program administered by Kolbe Academy in Napa, Calif. — but carried out by their parents, with help from local artists and additional coursework at Lord Fairfax Community College’s Middletown campus.
Virginia was the boys’ first choice, but they were also accepted at Cornell and Texas A&M. Austin will probably major in chemistry, Tyler in biology, but they both have interests in a business curriculum. Both are minoring in art.
Among other awards, the two each won $1,000 National Society of High School Scholars National Scholar Awards, selected from among 12,000 applicants for excellence in academics, leadership and community service. Claes Nobel, senior member of the family that established the Nobel prizes and founder of. the Scholar Awards, said: “I am deeply honored to recognize Austin and Tyler as two of our most outstanding students.”
Tyler’s awards include a $1,000 Most Valuable Student contest award from the Virginia Elks Association; a $1,000 Mary NcNeil Willis Scholarship from the Culpeper Regional Hospital Auxiliary; $2,000 as a national regional finalist in the Young Epidemiology Scholars Competition, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the College Board.
Austin garnered a $1,000 Best Buy @15 Scholarship for academic achievement and community service; a Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District scholarship; a Windmore Foundation for the Arts $1,000 Dorothy Skelton Art Scholarship to continue his education in the visual arts; a $1,000 Lee-Jackson Scholarship from the Lee-Jackson Educational Foundation for his essay, “Reverence and Resolve: The Forces Guiding Thomas Jackson,” and the Jeff MacNelly Art Award commemorating the former Rappahannock resident and three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, from the Headwaters Foundation.
Ask the boys if they’d consider pursuing the same path in the future for their own kids, and Tyler says, intrepidly:
“Our parents have been super-supportive of us, but it’s been a huge commitment for them. I’m . . . not sure I could do what they’ve done.”
Jane Burdick says the boys’ dad directed the boys’ schooling through seventh-grade, while she worked full time at Fauquier Hospital; after that, she took over.
“We are so grateful to these organizations for the opportunities they’re giving the boys to fund their education,” she says. “And for families that may be contemplating homeschooling, especially high school homeschooling, this shows that — it can be done! Your kids can be selected to attend their school of choice, they can qualify for scholarships — athletic as well as academic. You can do it!”