Child Exploitation or Great Adventure: What We Need To Know About “The Biking Vogels”

America was just introduced to the biking Vogel family, as they embark on a charm offensive seemingly with a potential reality show in their sights. They appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Labor Day, and expect to get a boost in publicity thanks to a typical softball interview by a beaming stand-in for George Stephanopoulos. (Video taken and selected by the Vogels themselves accompanied the interview, further allowing them to present their trip in the most favorable light.) It would be have been both responsible and right, however, if the Vogels had been asked more pointed questions, probing the serious issue of whether John and Nancy Vogel may be exploiting and even abusing their children in pursuit of fame, fortune, and  an “Easy Rider” life-style that being parents of young children ought to preclude.

The Vogels, a pair of former school teachers, are in the midst of a perpetual cross-continental bike tour with their twin pre-teen boys. They may be the embodiment of the national spirit, eschewing traditional, hide-bound conventions and tradition to live a life of adventure and discovery; that is certainly the image they want to project. But there is evidence that John and Nancy Vogel are the latest example of high-profile parents compromising the safety, welfare, comfort and emotional development of their children for selfish motives.

If so, the exploitation is certainly cleverly disguised—Fresh air! Exercise! Education!—and almost impossible to stop, since the under-staffed child welfare agencies of the states they race through are not inclined to track them down to check on how the Vogel children are faring.  What are the Vogels, then: a real life “Swiss Family Robinson” on bikes, or a cycling make-over of the Gosselins and Octomom, parents willing to rob their offspring of a stable and a healthy upbringing to collect a check? For the sake of the Vogel twins, that question needs to be answered, and had “Good Morning America” been interested in doing its job, rather than filling air time with a standard human interest puff piece, the show would have launched a serious inquiry into the short and long-term health, safety and socialization of the children John and Nancy haul along with them on their endless journey.

For more than four years, the Vogels have relied on cheerful representations of their travels to attract contributions over the internet and on the road: the perpetual bike trip is the family business now, and the children are critical employees. Nancy Vogel, the Homer of their odyssey, frames the journey in her web posts as a home schooling enterprise, knowing well that people will give money to keep children fed, schooled and sheltered even if they have doubts about their parents’ motives. As she wrote early in the first trip, in 2006:

“Children have a way of worming their way into the hearts of others, and you will be richly rewarded for your efforts!”

Whenever children become essential to a family’s income and chosen lifestyle, there is a lurking conflict of interest. Though the parents might say that the children are following their dreams, it is often the parents’ dreams that are threatened if the child wants to do something else.  This may be the stressful dilemma facing the Vogel children. They are now an irreplaceable component of their parents’ personal life goals, whether they like it or not.

The Biking Vogels, contrary to Nancy Vogel’s subsequent efforts to revise history, did not begin with an innovative teacher couple deciding that their two boys could best be raised on bicycle seats, but with a scene right out of Albert Brooks’ “Lost in America.”  John Vogel came home after a frustrating day at work, and announced his personal desire to “drop out,” Sixties-style. As Nancy tells it:

Nancy,” he said. “I can’t do this. I need to get away. I want to buy a triple bike and take off. Just me and the kids – out exploring the world. We’ll be the three musketeers… We’ll be Superman and Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk rolled into one!” He stopped his reverie long enough to look at me. “Oh yeah – and you can tag along too.”

Two months after that strange beginning, the Vogels pulled their boys out of school and began their first trek, funded by home-schooling supporters and on-line contributors whose hearts had been thoroughly wormed by Davy and Darryl. Nancy’s guileless accounts of the first trip raised alarm in some readers, as well it should have. A year-long family biking trip may sound like the plot of a Disney movie, and that is good enough for most casual followers of the Vogel’s experiment in child-rearing. The reality is somewhat different, however.

The trip’s diary described periods when the family was forced to stay in abandoned or half-finished buildings. They were sometimes reduced to begging for money, water, or gasoline. Sometimes the family was short of food; “the kids were starving!” Nancy writes at one point.  Darryl wrote:

“ I know I’m going to be tired. We’re getting a really late start because it is so cold. I’m going to be crying because it’s so cold. We don’t have any food!”

Clearly, the boys’ nutritional needs have not always been always met. Nancy wrote in 2006:

“We hit a new low in our culinary pursuits this morning. We have eaten peanut butter and jelly for breakfast many times in the past few months…PB & J sandwiches, PB & J on tortillas, PB & J on crackers… But this morning we had only PB & J.”

Reading the trip journal, one might conclude that the whole family frequently subsisted on tortillas, peanut butter, and candy. That wasn’t the dangerous part, however. The journal describes the Vogel parents absent-mindedly allowing their children to ride off in cars driven by strangers, or sending one of the 10-year olds on a solo errand in unfamiliar territory. John describes peddling in dangerous circumstances, with both boys in tow, writing:

“At the end of the ride my shoulders, arms, and hands were sore because I was gripping the handlebars with all my might as I was petrified when we rode on the side of a shoulderless road inches away from a 500 foot drop-off.”

In one interview, the boys are asked what they fear most, and one replies, “Getting hit by a truck.”

There are definitely educational opportunities on the trip, though anyone who has found it challenging to effectively homeschool a boy in a stationary home, with good light, temperature controls, a home library and regular internet access without having to travel 25-40 miles a day on a bicycle might question how effective Davy and Darryl’s education could possibly be. One gushing interviewer asked the boys what they did when they weren’t biking: Davy answered, “Play or sleep most of the time. Sometimes we work on math or do journals.’ That sounds about right, to me, though homeschooling experts I consulted regarding the Vogels cautioned that the boys might be receiving a good education. There is no way to be sure.

Still, I would be inclined to regard a one-year family adventure on bikes as more Disney than Gosselin, except that as soon as it ended, the Vogels hit the road with another forced march. From Nancy Vogel’s blog:

“By the time we headed back home we had pedaled 9300 miles and knew we wanted more. Much more. As a family we made the decision to cycle from Alaska to Argentina, and set about preparing for a much longer tour than any of us had ever attempted – three years through extreme conditions.”

Is it really and truly “we”? This is a key feature of the revised Vogel myth, that the decision to spend a life on bikes is a “a family decision.” Of course, in the typical responsible family, if a child says, “I think we should chuck school, rent out the house, and live on contributions from strangers while we bike to Argentina!”, one or both parents would end the discussion with, “Uh-huh. I think you should finish your homework and go to bed.” I strongly suspect that in the Vogel family, when the father says,”I don’t want to go back to work; I want to go on another trip, and you all are coming with me,” the kids say, ”Yes, sir!” That Nancy Vogel recasts this probable scenario as “the kids following their dream” smacks of wishful thinking or outright misrepresentation.

In her journal, Nancy explains how the boys were made excited by the prospect of the second trip by the idea that it could qualify them to be in the Guinness Book of Records…as would, for example, cycling backwards while playing the violin, or having snails crawl on one’s face for more than 10 seconds. Among the life lessons being taught in the Vogel School of The Open Road is that it makes sense to sacrifice health, safety, time and stability in pursuit of pointless notoriety. This, like much of the Vogel saga, does not bode well for the future of Daryl and Davy.

The second trip, from Alaska to Argentina, is ongoing now. As with the first, Nancy Vogel’s account raises questions about the twins’ safety and their parents’ judgment. For example, there is the incident of the drunk doctor and the infected toe, from last fall. It seems that Davy, now 12, had been cycling for some time with a painful ingrown toenail:

“ I had talked with the doctor that morning and he assured us that he could cut out the end of the root so Davy should never get an ingrown nail again. I wondered if the doctor had been drinking as soon as I got there, but it was hard to tell since I couldn’t talk with him.  He was shaking a bit and it sounded like he was slurring his words – but since I didn’t understand anything anyway, I wasn’t sure.  After he started cutting, I got close enough that I could smell the alcohol on his breath – and almost walked out right then.  But by then, he had Davy’s toe all numbed and was cutting, so I stayed.  I’m not sure what he did – hopefully he did the surgery right!”


“The bad news is that he only did one..Even though only the one is ingrown and infected right now, it won’t be long before the other one is bad again – and we don’t want to deal with this again.  I thought the doctor understood that we wanted both done, but he only did the one that has trouble now.  Bummer!”

Later, Davy finally gets his other toe doctored (by a sober nurse), spurring Nancy to reveal how much he had been suffering—though her emphasis, significantly, is on the inconvenience this caused during the trip:

“We’ve been dealing with these ingrown toenails for so long, it’s hard to imagine a life free of toe pain.  No more searching and begging for hot water to soak the foot, no more bandaging up with antibiotic ointment every morning, no more racing against the clock trying to get help before infection sets in.”

And it is never going to end. This is what is so misleading about Nancy Vogel’s “dream” argument. The pattern is set; the boys have lived their lives on bicycles since 2006, when they were eight years old. The Vogels are already discussing another trip after the current one ends in 2011. The supposed dream may be a nightmare. One concerned follower of the Vogels writes,“If one assumes that one’s memories start from approximately age 3 onward, these boys have spent 35-40% of their lives on bikes on the road, missing out on socialization, friends, sports, etc. If and when they ever decide to resume an American life, they will have a hard time relating.”

The ordeal has other possible physical consequences too. Steven M. Schrader, Ph.D, a specialist in reproductive health assessment for National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, was asked about the long-term effects of  unusually frequent cycling on the bodies of young boys like Davy and Daryl. As with adult cyclists, Dr. Schrader says, the twins are at increased risk of genital injury and future sexual dysfunction. Simply stated, the human body was not designed to spend months on a bike seat.

Dr. Kathleen Platzman, an Atlanta psychologist who specializes in child development, has this to say about the Vogels:

“While there’s nothing to prove that child neglect or abuse is definitely happening within the “Bicycling Vogel” family, there is at least a possibility, given what we know, that it could be occurring. Much has been written about the basic needs of children. There are physical survival and safety requirements. Additionally, there are social and emotional needs such as a safe, nurturing and predictable environment inside a stable context of family and community. I think there is legitimate concern about the Vogel children, enough to warrant scrutiny about how these children are coping with their life and whether their needs are being adequately met.”

Before the Vogels make America more complicit in what may be the exploitation of their children, it would be reasonable and prudent to have them examined by competent professionals to ensure that the boys are as happy, healthy, well-educated and well-adjusted as the family claims. “Good Morning America” did neither its research nor its duty, irresponsibly allowing Nancy and John Vogel to burnish their credibility without actually establishing it. The news media will have other chances, however.  Here are some of these questions the Vogels should have to address in their next television appearance:

  • What do your children eat on a typical day on the road?
  • How much educational material do you carry with you on the bicycles?
  • How much actual schooling do they get?
  • Do they have any friends?
  • How much time do they get to spend by themselves?
  • Will the bike trips ever stop? When? What will the family do then?
  • How much does the family get in contributions?
  • How is it spent?
  • Do the boys have regular dental check-ups? Medical check-ups?
  • If one or both twins announced that they were sick of biking, would it make a difference?

And most important of all:

Will you allow your children to be interviewed by a child psychologist not hired by you, as well as a child welfare specialist? And if not, why not?

Doing their journalistic duty by asking these questions may not give interviewers the warm, inspiring feature they crave, but it could end the exploitation of two young boys, and change their lives for the better. Or, quite possibly, it could prove to critics and doubters that the Vogels really are the bold but responsible parents they say they are.

Either way, the questions need to be asked…and answered.

[Ethics Alarms want to give special thanks to Eve Harrington, without whose guidance and research this post would have been impossible.]

_______________________________________________________

Note: To avoid a tedious theme already showing up in some comments on this post here and elsewhere, let me clarify some facts. I do not lack for time with my own child, Grant, who is 15. I work in a home office, and Grant is home schooled. I see him every hour of most days, except when I am on the road. Sometimes, if he wants, he accompanies me on trips. Grant is not, as has been speculated on some threads begun by Nancy Vogel, a “fat couch potato who isn’t allowed to leave the house.” He is a road and mountain biking enthusiast—surprise!– who often takes off with his friends or by himself on bike trips of 40 miles or more—when he wants to do so. He is slim, muscular, and fit. He has his own room, and he has privacy when he wants it…which is often.

My wife and I have hardly mastered the mysteries of parenthood, and we have as many doubts about our choices as any parents. What we have done has been in response to our assessment of our son’s needs, and we are very aware that there are infinite approaches to child-rearing that can or do work, and that many of them might have even worked better for Grant, though that may never be known for certain. The attacks on my questions about the Vogels that include the assumption that I have some rigid concept of the “right” way to care for children is just wrong, and, I think, desperate.  Also wrong is using one’s children as a means to an end, and there are justifiable reasons to suspect that this is what the Vogels are doing.

I’m not sure I like all of my son’s dreams, but they are his, not mine. And I will do what I can to help him follow them, if he’ll let me.

94 Comments

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94 responses to “Child Exploitation or Great Adventure: What We Need To Know About “The Biking Vogels”

  1. Dear Jack:

    As you know, I’ve written extensively on modern child exploitation- especially as it relates to media fame and fortune for the parents. I see a lot of the warning signs here, as you do. It’s just a matter of it being cleverly repackaged as a kind of American Odyssey. A four year one at that!

    I’ll limit myself to mentioning one of the quoted phrases that never fails to alert me. That’s the one about the kids “following their dreams”. I’ve heard that one from exploitive stage parents and agents just too often. I first encountered it as an excuse for Dakota Fanning’s dive into infamy, via the “Hounddog” movie. I have heard it since as other children have been led into danger and/or degradation for the sake of their marketability.

    Whether its about biking across America, sailing solo around the world, making an historic work of kiddie porn or just being a member of an unusually large (and dysfunctional) family, kids are being exploited into ever greater and more devious events. They’ll usually find only fleeting fame (the fortune going largely to their handlers) and a missed childhood that will impact their adult lives. If they live that long.

  2. penn

    Gently, one asks, in all sweet innocence: You are dreaming of anyone on Good Morning America asking “pointed questions . . . probing the serious issue” of anything?

    • So young, and so cynical? What about George, who has been gradually transforming the GMA format to a veritable juggernaut of journalistic accountability?

      • penn

        I sit corrected in front of my computer, the only screen I’ve owned for the past few years which makes me ineligible to judge what’s going on on television these days. The last I recall of Good Morning America — as with its sister programs on the other networks — what little it had of news value was inflated according to the emotional impact of its visuals. It was like getting all your hard information from the pictures in Life Magazine (oops, not quite so young, eh?), only not so much worth looking at. On second thought, one of those Life-quality b&w’s of the expression on the face of the boy having his ingrown toenail attended to might have done the trick.

        But, perhaps if I hadn’t read your description of the Vogel’s “typical softball interview by a beaming stand-in” I would have refrained from such blanket calumny.

        Thank you once again for dissecting the ugly filling at the candy-coated core of a ‘pop’ story. … I wondered where all that cynicism was coming from . . . .

  3. Yvonne Hudson

    Jack, your points are right on. It’s so easy for the media to grab onto the cute and inspiring aspects of stories that are really something else. What happened to what we learned in J-school? Don’t see nearly as much of that these days as we so need right now. I hope these kids are OK!

  4. Helen S.

    There is probably no greater evil in the world than child abuse and exploitation. Before you villify parents with such serious accusations, you should have good, hard proof. The kind that would stand up in court, or at least in a grand jury. It is so easy to cast aspersions or innuendo based on your own narrow, judgmental view of what is “good” and “beneficial” for children, without having ever spoken to the children.

    Did you even ask the Vogels if you could interview this kids for this piece? Or did you just assume the boys are idiots who can’t speak for themselves and can’t determine what they want? That only you are wise and moral enough to speak on their behalf?

    Did you poll other parents on any of these questions you posed? What happens if parents disagree with you on how “friends” and “schooling” is defined; are they automatically wrong? What percentage of them agreed to let their kids be interviewed by an independent child psychologist or child welfare specialist for the purposes of determining possible child abuse? And are the parent who said “no” automatic child abuse suspects?

    While you’re at it, why don’t you publically answer all these same questions for your kids, complete with an interview with the independent child psychologist you took them to for the purposes of determining possible child abuse. In fact, I challenge every parent who supported your article to do the same.

    Or don’t you guys have kids?

    • You are confused.
      1). If you read the piece, I did not accuse the Vogels of child abuse. That they are exploiting their children to some extent is not open to argument: sorry, if you use your kids to raise money, that’s exploitation. I said their conduct raises question that need to be answered.
      2) Lots of terribly unethical conduct cannot be prosecuted in court. Parents have broad discretion to undereducate their children and otherwise scar them: you may train your child to be a racist, for example.
      3) We all need to make judgments about what is appropriate behavior, and especially when the welfare of children is involved, ask questions. There is nothing the matter with making judgments—that’s how a culture decides on what is right and wrong. I believe making kids live on the road for nearly 5 years is wrong, and may border on abuse. I also think anyone that actually stops to think about it will tend to reach the same conclusion.
      4) I am not the person to do a psychological evaluation of the Vogel kids, and no parent, me included, would allow a non-professional to hold such an interview without being present. I proposed questions, based on my own consultation wityh child experts who had access to the same information I did (or you do).
      5) I asked the same questions of all parents who have yanked their kids out of the home and forced them to live on bicycles so that the parents could avoid full-time employment. Of course, there are no such parents, other than the Vogels. Your ethically obtuse question presupposes that all methods of child rearing are equally valid. They are not. There is room for debate, but if you cannot comprehend that a family that houses, educates and feeds and feeds its kids, supported by the work of the parents with no required participation of the dependent children, allowing them freedom to have friends and their own choice of recreation (within common sense limits),raises significantly fewer issues regarding child welfare than what the Vogels are doing, then you are ethically and logically inert.
      6) My child actually HAS been interviewed by an independent child psychologist, more than once, at my request.
      7) You do know that most of those questions are irrelevant to parents who live in communities and homes? And that the wrong answer to several of them would suggest state agency intervention is necessary, if the family stayed in one state long enough to permit it?

      Your comment is nothing but abdication of out shared obligation to look out for the weakest among us, using rationalizations, and inapplicable ones at that. Yes, we have a son. And he’s a biking enthusiast. Decided to be one on his own—I’m not one. He thinks that the Vogel kids are in Hell.

      • Anissa

        You are right. We should make judgements about what is right and wrong, and in my reasoned judgement you are wrong on almost all counts. Parents have the right to educate and raise their children according to their beliefs. What the Vogels are doing is in no way abusive. I have met the Vogels and when I did they boys were as anxious to be off on their trip as their parents were. Most of your arguments rest on a faulty view of childhood. Children are not born to live independently. They are born to live in familes and their life styles reflect this.

        It is not child abuse for children to help the family bottom line. It is necessary and proper for children to help with many family businesses, for instance. Also, it is not clear that the Vogels are even doing what you claim. They raise money to keep going, but they are not using their children to do so. They are raising support for their family, and the children are part of that family.

        The boys are not being forced to continue. They want to be there. They are not lacking anything. They see friends frequently along the way. I will never understand why it is that our culture and people like you, think that children are best socialized by primarily being around people their own age. That is one of the reasons why they are unsocialized! Even if the Vogels were forcing their sons to join them, which they are not, it would in no way be child abuse! Children are born to parents, not villages. It does not take a village to raise a child. It takes committed parents, and the Vogels are some of the best parents I have ever met. My children are jealous of their adventures, but they are not lucky enough to have the opportunity that the Vogel boys have had. They would love to be on that trip.

        I have thought about it, and you are wrong.

        • Anissa: A few comments on your post:

          “Parents have the right to educate and raise their children according to their beliefs.” PLEASE stop confusing rights with ethics! Everyone—STOP. Rights and ethics are tow different matters. YES: parents have that right, and many parents abuse that right to the detriment of their kids.

          “What the Vogels are doing is in no way abusive.” So you say. I say forcing children to bike X-miles a day and live a nomadic existance when they don’t have to do so, in situations involving danger, dicey medical treatment (or are your doctors drunk too?), cycling through injuries and being away from community and friends for 5 years is quite possibly abusive, and bears examination. That seem obvious. What they are doing is unusual enough that the burden of proof is theirs.

          “I have met the Vogels and when I did they boys were as anxious to be off on their trip as their parents were.” If one has no choice, one might as well be enthusiastic. This proves absolutely nothing.

          “Most of your arguments rest on a faulty view of childhood. Children are not born to live independently. They are born to live in familes and their life styles reflect this.” No, they are born to be cared for by parents who sacrifice their own pleasure and selfish needs to make sure that the children are healthy, happy, protected, and have an opportunity to become socialized. Nobody is arguing that 8-12 year olds should be independent. We are arguing that parents should be responsible.

          It is not child abuse for children to help the family bottom line. I didn’t say that was abusive, I said it was exploitive. And it does create a conflict of interest.

          Also, it is not clear that the Vogels are even doing what you claim. They raise money to keep going, but they are not using their children to do so. They are raising support for their family, and the children are part of that family. If you believe that, I have some swampland in Florida you might be interested in. Without the kids, the Vogels don’t raise one penny, and they know it. They want to ride around the world, and bringing the children make if financially feasible. That’s why the kids can’t quit. E-X-P-L-O-I-T-A-T-I-O-N. Got that? Using kids as a cash cow, trading their childhood for cash, is unethical. This is nuts and bolts stuff.

          The boys are not being forced to continue. They want to be there. Who says? Nancy? The boys with John and Nancy looking over their shoulders? Good: they can prove it—let them talk to a professional without the parents looking on or listening. Why not? What are the parents afraid of? Two words: “Balloon boy.”

          “They see friends frequently along the way.” What is your concept of “friends”? Friends for kids are the people they see daily, not just the acquaintances they may run into while peddling through Brazilia. Your reasoning is progressvely desperate.

          “I will never understand why it is that our culture and people like you, think that children are best socialized by primarily being around people their own age.” Gee, I dunno–because they are?

          ” My children are jealous of their adventures, but they are not lucky enough to have the opportunity that the Vogel boys have had. They would love to be on that trip.” For five years? Suuuuure they would. Luckily, though she won’t admit it, their mother is more responsible and sensible than the Vogels.

          I have thought about it, and you are wrong. Good.Tthe point is to make people think about it. But you can do better.

          • Anissa

            As a home educator, I frequently get asked what we refer to as “the socialization question.” Like so many others, your arguments are based on our current culture’s artificial childhood. Seeing one’s friends daily is no more a childhood need than glow-in-the-dark fruit rolls. When our country’s second president, John Adams was sent to Europe during the revolution, he took his oldest son along, so he could see what life was like in other countries. They almost died at sea, and faced many other trials, but I do believe that he grew up just fine. You might remember him as our nation’s sixth president John Quincy Adams.

            All children learn from primarily being around other children their own age is negative socialization. My 16 year old daughter willingly puts her cell phone away to play with or help her siblings. Her schooled friends see both my younger children and their siblings as a bother. Children learn to get along in society by being in society not by spending hours every day being bored out of their minds in classrooms.

            I spend my days educating my children. They see friends frequently, but not daily and they have no problems either making or keeping friends. My teen, asks my advice and that of other adults before in addition to asking her friends. She has never been in school, and she is so well socialized that she works in the community and dances in a youth company.

            If I had the financial means, I would buy a motor home tomorrow and set off with my family to see the world. I guarantee, my kids would be the first to jump in and buckle up.

            • Sure they would: to get away from such a restrictive home schooling environment!

              I don’t need the history lesson, thanks: I learned the presidents and their lives, in order, on my own, when I was 10—of course, this was possible because I wasn’t BIKING all day. Your citing John Quincy Adams as a model upbringing in 2011 is beyond belief.

              Kids need both adult and peer group exposure. That doesn’t mean someone robbed of one or the other can’t grow up to be a one-term president. It does mean that precluding one or the other is neither wise, kind, nor fair.

              • Anissa

                It is not a history lesson. I was pointing out that what the Vogel’s are doing may be unique, but it is far from unprecedented.

                The boys do not bike all day. They are freqently in one place for quite a while. They are experiencing their surroundings, and have plenty of time to study.

                Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. Their is no better source to cite, and parents today can have no better role models than the parents who raised our founding fathers.

                • Well, the longer these exchanges go on, the more we understand. So I guess you favor the switch, pre-selecting brides, sending boys off the boarding schools and not letting girls go to school at all? Why stop at the 18th Century…let’s emulate those great parents from the 16th, 15th 14th and before. It’s called “learning from history: not “re-enacting history.” A common error.

                  Your assessment of TV is just ill-informed. Yes, there is a lot of junk. There is also a lot of information, drama, humor, and education, as well as a solid grounding in American culture, which is, you know, the one our kids actually have to live in. I’ve learned a lot more from TV though the decades than I ever learned in college….and I learned a lot there.

                  • Anissa

                    I certainly don’t think we should emulate all of history, only that we can learn from what our ancestors did right. There are no switches here, and I intend for my daughters to go off to college. In the 18th century, a boy who applied to attend university in this country, had to be able to translate passages from Latin to Greek, Greek to Latin and both to English. They knew Euclidian Geometry and could run the family farm. They did all this by the time they were 14 or so. Perhaps it was because they had no TV.

                    I stand by my statement that there is very little good to be found playing on the idiot box. I don’t want my children to be grounded in our current culture. They must be able to exist in it, but I am training them to overcome that disadvantage to their well-being. Most of what stands for popular culture today is worse than filth. Classical Educators strive to surround their children with the true, the good and the beautiful, and this is my daily goal.

        • Helen S.

          “It is not child abuse for children to help the family bottom line. It is necessary and proper for children to help with many family businesses, for instance.”

          Apparently, according to Jack, every kid who ever lived in a farming family and had to do farm chores is exploited.

          See, in Jack-world, only rich kids are not abused.

          • That, my dear Helen, is a gross distortion of both what I have written and what the Vogels are doing. The Vogels are not working—Dad has decided that he doesn’t want to work, and the kids are the engine that allows it. The kids are doing work, because their participation is not voluntary. The parents are having fun. If we applied child labor standards to what the Vogel kids have to do, I would not be surprised in they were in violation. Of course, their brilliant concept allows them to avoid any state agency’s jurisdiction. Good for them; not so good for the boys.

            Comparing a forced march to working on a farm is unfair—to the farm. Those kids know where their meals are coming from, have their own beds, and aren’t worried about getting killed by trucks.

            • Helen S.

              “The kids are doing work, because their participation is not voluntary. ”

              Yes, so you keep saying. And as I keep saying, you have the proof….where???

              Accusing parents of forcing their children on an involuntary “march” is unethical blogging, reporting, or whatever you may claim to be doing. It is unethical to vilify parents without proof.

              • I’m sorry, Helen, but your comments no longer qualify as communication. You’re in denial…why, I can’t fathom. Two adults told their 8 year-old boys that they were going along on a year-long biking trip, because Daddy didn’t want to work any more. Then they were told to do it again.That’s involuntary. Stop asking for “proof” of the obvious. It wasn’t the kids’ idea, and they didn’t have the option of saying no—no 8-10 year old has a veto over family plans. Now they are stuck. Proof? They’ve been doing it since 2007! That’s proof. What do you think happened? The kids told their parents to quit their jobs and live on the road? They flipped coins? By what possible logic to you assume that it is anything else but a forced march?

                • Helen S.

                  “they didn’t have the option of saying no—no 8-10 year old has a veto over family plans.”

                  I don’t know what kind of house you run, but most 8 year olds I know (my kids and my kids’ friends) tell their parents “no” several times a day. Sometimes, their parents say, “I’m sorry, but you DO have to eat your carrots.” Most times though, about things that require on-going commitment and are long-lasting, almost all the parents I know, including the Vogels, absolutely give the child veto power. The ONLY exception usually involves relocation because of a parent’s job, where there is no viable way the parent can quit the job.

                  So maybe you’re just projecting because YOU would never give your kid veto power, I don’t know. I just know the Vogels’ boys indeed have veto power, and your ludicrous assumption is groundless, like everything else you say.

                  Well, this is my last post. All your responses of misdirection, logical fallacies, misstatements, and otherwise baseless arguments have persuaded me that you’re just another self-important crackpot on the internet. You HAD some credibility with me (because I am very concerned about exploited children), but it’s ALL gone now. I should have listened to all the other parents (at least 10 of them) who told me (paraphrased), “Ignore him. He’s raving lunatic.”

                  • This is perfect, actually: a post that asserts that most 8-year-olds tell their parents what to do ends by calling me a lunatic.

                    The essential methodolgy of the Vogel-defenders has been, consistently, attack the messenger, deny the obvious, set up straw men, use absurd analogies (working on the family farm), insinuate bias (only rich parents can take off with their kids) and inject rationalizations (it’s not illegal; other people do it; you’re just jealous) followed, finally, by insults and incivility. The total package is known as “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with facts.” This story was flagged for me by concerned parents; I did my own research with an open mind, I saw the same red flags they did (when parents talk about their children’s “dreams” when they themselves are the beneficiaries of them, watch out!), and concluded that there was cause for concern. There is. Your defense, like the others here, boils down to “you can’t prove there’s anything wrong with making children give up their childhood for 4 years or more and forgo a normal home and social life for endless cycling so their parents can get through their midlife crisis.”

                    I’m willing to leave an argument like that to stand on its own, and confident that most readers will see it as the desperate and irresponsible enabling effort that it is. So you don’t need to say anything else. You made my point.

                    • Helen S.

                      Just for the record, because you keep getting it wrong (and you can’t even get it wrong consistently–is it 4 years? or 5?)….

                      It’s actually 1 year, then 2 years and change.

                      Their first trip was in 2006, for 12 months. Then they settled for a while. Their next trip was from June 8, 2008 to present.

                      (And frankly, I am very concerned that you do not give YOUR 8 year old veto power over long-term lifestyle decisions. Maybe you should get your kid evaluated for possible child abuse *from you* for all the decisions you have forced on him, hmm? Actually, now I understand why you are so concerned. You don’t give your kids a say, so you assume no one else does.)

                    • It’s 2010 now, and the current trip is supposed to last until early 2011. They began in 2006. They had a break. 4 years, 5 years, something in between. The issue is unchanged 4 OR 5 years of being homeless on bikes is a large percentage of 12-year-old’s life. And indications are that this is not the end.

                      Your 8 year old veto idea is hilarious, and so obviously outside normal parenting traditions and wisdom that it can’t be taken seriously. It’s fascinating: one commenter defends the Vogels by saying children have too much autonomy, and it’s good the Vogels are making their kids come along. You defend the Vogels by claiming that the kids were decision-makers. The truth is that the kids had no choice in the matter, and that was NOT good, because it was not a good choice for their welfare. They didn’t have a veto, and no minor should have a veto. As (almost) everbody knows.

      • Helen S.

        1. ” That they are exploiting their children to some extent is not open to argument…”
        “I believe making kids live on the road for nearly 5 years is wrong, and may border on abuse.”
        “You are confused…I did not accuse the Vogels of child abuse.”

        You accused them outright of exploitation (a form of abuse), accused them of “making” the kids live on the road, and strongly implied this involuntary lifestyle is abusive. I don’t think I am confused when I say such serious accusations and innuendo need good, hard proof before you publically vilify someone. As an ethical alarmist, surely you are familiar with journalism ethics. Publically yelling “Exploitation!” and “Probable abuse!” without actual proof is probably not ethical.

        Where is your proof that exploitation is occurring? Is everyone who gets a donation for a family expense (be it a house, medicine, or vacation) exploiting his/her kids? Those Habitat for Humanity beneficiaries better watch out, or Jack Marshall will be chewing on them next! Does everyone who makes money by writing about his/her children exploiting kids? If so, I’d better see you write some harsh words about Erma Bombeck.

        2. “Lots of terribly unethical conduct cannot be prosecuted in court.”

        I am not talking about prosecuting them in court. I am talking about not making accusations unless you have some standard of evidence, such as the kind used in courts or even a grand jury. But forget I said “court.” Do you even have enough evidence to meet publishing standards of a reputable (non-tabloid) newspaper? If I were a publisher, I would be concerned about a possible libel suit!

        3. “I asked the same questions of all parents who have yanked their kids out of the home and forced them to live on bicycles so that the parents could avoid full-time employment. Of course, there are no such parents, other than the Vogels.”

        Yeah, again, making blanket assertions without doing any investigation at all. Isn’t accuracy in reporting an ethical requirement of journalism? I can think of at least 5 off the top of my head. And they are all on the internet, a google away. Or if you are really lazy, there are over 10 biking families listed on the Vogels’ website (under “Useful Links”). Let me ask you. If the Vogels were millionaires who chose to take a 2.5 year worldwide extended vacation with their boys, staying at 5 star hotels, and homeschooling them along the way with private tutors, would you still have the same objections to their avoidance of full-time employment?

        4. “I also think anyone that actually stops to think about it will tend to reach the same conclusion. ”

        I have stopped to think about it, and I obviously do not arrive at the same conclusion. Actually, given the amount of support the Vogels have from both the media and thousands of other parents, I might venture to say that very FEW people, despite stopping to think about it, reach the same conclusion as you. In the eyes of extended traveling enthusiasts, you are crying wolf. This is unfortunate, because some of your other alarms actually do deserve attention, and you’ve lost a lot of credibility with this recklessly written on the Vogels.

        5. “Your ethically obtuse question presupposes that all methods of child rearing are equally valid. They are not.”

        Here we go. This is all about your disapproval for their child-rearing method and your attempt to tarnish it in the public eye by tossing out the words “exploitation” and “abuse.”

        Of course, I do not believe all methods are child rearing are valid. But to single out a particular method as abusive or exploitive, well, my ethical standards require a lot more proof that the kids are unhappy and unhealthy before I go making such grave accusations in public.

        6. “You do know that most of those questions are irrelevant to parents who live in communities and homes?”
        “There is room for debate, but if you cannot comprehend that a family that houses, educates and feeds and feeds its kids…raises significantly fewer issues regarding child welfare than what the Vogels are doing, then you are ethically and logically inert.”

        This debate centers, rather, on your presumption that only YOUR child rearing model is valid. If they do not live in a house or community, get schooled the way YOU see fit, and have friends and recreation the way YOU see fit, and don’t “participate” in the family expenses the way YOU see fit (whatever that means), they are likely being abused.

        What you are saying is akin to those who feel threatened by anyone who believes in a different God, who feel the need to condemn other religions to Hell. This has never been about a concern for the kids. This is all about YOU and your sense of self-righteousness.

        7. “My child actually HAS been interviewed by an independent child psychologist, more than once, at my request.”

        May I ask who paid for it? I mean, if you requested it, but didn’t pay for it, I have to wonder who the psychologist answered to. And surely you didn’t request it for the purposes of determining possible child abuse from YOURSELF. If you remember, my point was, do you know any parents who volunteer their children to be interviewed *for the purposes to determining possible child abuse*–and whether declining such an evaluation automatically makes the parent suspicious, as I inferred from your challenge?

        8. “You do know that most of those questions are irrelevant to parents who live in communities and homes?”

        Are you saying that if someone operates within the child rearing model that YOU approve of, they are automatically exempt from your scrutiny and witchhunt? Do you know how much child abuse occurs at the hands of parents who live in communities and homes? Yeah, think about that.

        9.” He thinks that the Vogel kids are in Hell.”

        At the end of the day, he can think that Flying Spaghetti Monsters are chasing the Vogel children. It doesn’t mean it’s true.

        • 1. Exploitation is not what the law regards as “child abuse”—if so, all child athletes and actors would be abused—though many certainly are. Of course they are making the kids live on the road. One of the boys said in an interview that he seldom biked before this: and yet Nancy calls this his “dream.”
          2. I have consulted with experts in the field. All agree there is cause for concern regarding abuse. The argument for exploitation is clear on its face. The children are being exploited..that’s what this is. Red Ipsa Loquitur. It proves itself
          3. I am not a journalist, and I am suggesting that journalists do their jobs and investigate this rather than becoming part of the publicity machine. I am expressing an opinion that based on what I have read and know, the Vogels may be sacrificing their children to their own ends. There is nothing whatsoever improper or inappropriate about raising these concerns, which are reasonable.

          “Where is your proof that exploitation is occurring? Is everyone who gets a donation for a family expense (be it a house, medicine, or vacation) exploiting his/her kids? Those Habitat for Humanity beneficiaries better watch out, or Jack Marshall will be chewing on them next! Does everyone who makes money by writing about his/her children exploiting kids? If so, I’d better see you write some harsh words about Erma Bombeck.”

          Silly comparisons. Erma Bombeck’s kids are not distorted by her writing. Exploitation is using human beings and their unique qualities for profit or personal benefit. This is an accurate description of what the Vogels are doing. You can excuse it, but it is dishonest to deny it.

          2.
          “I am not talking about prosecuting them in court. I am talking about not making accusations unless you have some standard of evidence, such as the kind used in courts or even a grand jury. But forget I said “court.” Do you even have enough evidence to meet publishing standards of a reputable (non-tabloid) newspaper? If I were a publisher, I would be concerned about a possible libel suit!”

          Then you would be an ignorant publisher. The Vogels have appeared on TV, and I have rendered an opinion based on what they have done, using their own rules. I am an ethics expert, and my expertise tells me that this conduct is wrong, unfair, selfish and irresponsible. That is a valid standard, but I defer to experts in the field pf child psychology. I’ll accept their verdict regarding the Vogel kids. You want conclusive proof before the inquiry! One does not need definitive proof to raise a concern. I believe that making growing boys live on the road, on bikes, is a prima facie case of abuse—rebuttable, but still worth an inquiry. I believe that making one’s kids the linchpin of one’s profit-making leisure is exploitation. I stongly suspect most people would agree, if the Vogels were subjected to any unfiltered scrutiny. The burden should be on parents who put their children through an ordeal like this to prove it is not harmful, not, as you seem to think, to presume it is fine.

          3. “I asked the same questions of all parents who have yanked their kids out of the home and forced them to live on bicycles so that the parents could avoid full-time employment. Of course, there are no such parents, other than the Vogels.”

          “Yeah, again, making blanket assertions without doing any investigation at all. Isn’t accuracy in reporting an ethical requirement of journalism? I can think of at least 5 off the top of my head. And they are all on the internet, a google away. Or if you are really lazy, there are over 10 biking families listed on the Vogels’ website (under “Useful Links”).

          Not true, and you know it. Yes, there are other biking families, and the ones I have tracked down are doing this for a limited time, not an open-ended journey that has become the focus of their existance. Many of the nomadic families are in RVs, so there is, in effect, a home. I think the Vogels raise special issues, but if there are similar families—one, ten, or 100—it doesn’t matter. So what? If it is exploitive and abusive, it’s wrong. The fact that other families may do it doesn’t make it any better. Daryl and Davy aren’t better off because Fiona and Sven are forced to live the same way.

          4 “Let me ask you. If the Vogels were millionaires who chose to take a 2.5 year worldwide extended vacation with their boys, staying at 5 star hotels, and homeschooling them along the way with private tutors, would you still have the same objections to their avoidance of full-time employment?” The same? No, not the same. The boys wouldn’t be forced to be cycling for four years—I think that’s a big difference. You don’t? The hotel vacation is safer, obviously. If the kids wanted to go home, the parents wouldn’t have a conflict of interest stopping them from being sensitive to their children’s needs. What’s your point?

          5. “I also think anyone that actually stops to think about it will tend to reach the same conclusion. ”
          I have stopped to think about it, and I obviously do not arrive at the same conclusion. Actually, given the amount of support the Vogels have from both the media and thousands of other parents, I might venture to say that very FEW people, despite stopping to think about it, reach the same conclusion as you.” That’s nonsense. Most people have never heard of the Vogels, and most parents I have sent to their site are appalled. The media has done an atrocious job describing what is going on. My characterization is fair.

          6. The public and media is horribly blase about celebrity kids manipulated by their parents for profit: See child stars, the Gosselins, gymnasts, skaters, and parents who send their 16-year-old daughters off in sailboats to set “records”. The Vogels are part of the same syndrome. I am not going to be part of this benign neglect—currently being fought well by Paul Petersen and his group, A Minor Consideration—just to curry favor with the enablers of these parents.

          6. “Your ethically obtuse question presupposes that all methods of child rearing are equally valid. They are not.”

          “Here we go. This is all about your disapproval for their child-rearing method and your attempt to tarnish it in the public eye by tossing out the words “exploitation” and “abuse.” Of course, I do not believe all methods are child rearing are valid. But to single out a particular method as abusive or exploitive, well, my ethical standards require a lot more proof that the kids are unhappy and unhealthy before I go making such grave accusations in public.”

          And how will you get that proof Helen? You have to look for it. Nobody will look for it if everyone pretends it can’t be there.

          7. “What you are saying is akin to those who feel threatened by anyone who believes in a different God, who feel the need to condemn other religions to Hell. This has never been about a concern for the kids. This is all about YOU and your sense of self-righteousness.” What???? There is nothing religious or self-righteous about this. Parents are forcing their boys to cycle hundreds of miles a week, for four years, and earning money off it. You see nothing wrong with that, and object to someone even suggesting that there may be a serious problem. I find that incredible. Frightening too. I’m not threatened by the Vogels. They have no impact om my life whatsoever. But they may have an impact on the children of other parents who decide that the Vogels may be on to a “good thing.”

          8. ” Are you saying that if someone operates within the child rearing model that YOU approve of, they are automatically exempt from your scrutiny and witchhunt? Do you know how much child abuse occurs at the hands of parents who live in communities and homes? Yeah, think about that.” Right—and almost no abuse comes at the hands of families who live in old refrigerators. So what? There is nothing wrong with novel child-rearing methods, but they are by definition experiments, and there is an ethical obligation to check out what is happening. We pretty much know that the old models work well. You and Nancy may be right: forced march cycling childhoods may be the wave of the future. But I sure wouldn’t commit to it at the risk of mu kids welfare without being certain it wasn’t doing more damage than harm.

    • Cathy H.

      Helen S. – well stated. The only question in the list he feels should be asked of them that even matters in my opinion is -“If one or both twins announced that they were sick of biking, would it make a difference?” – which they already answered in the Parade interview with a resounding yes. I smell jealousy and a need to defend his own choices and opinions. My intuition tells me that he’s afraid to take any risks and do anything outside of convention; and instead of acknowledging that and facing those fears, he is projecting it onto the Vogel family and perhaps others he strives to exploit in his blog.

      • A very funny response to those who know me even a little bit…but then, attacking the critic personally is a desperate tactic. The Parade interview proves nothing of course…I’ll believe this answer when the twins have a private interview with a professional, and they never will. Patty Hearst would have said the same thing about leaving the Symbionese Liberation Army.

        To other commenters: read the questions in the post again, and the disturbing nature of Cathy’s comment becomes clear. Medical care? Friends? Private time? Schooling? None of that matters.

        Wow.

  5. What you see as cleverly disguised exploitation on the Vogel’s part, I see as cleverly disguised jealousy on your part. Give me a break. Why don’t you go after the mom’s who vicariously live their lives through their daughters that they punish in the child model business. THAT is child exploitation. The Vogel’s are right there sharing every experience with their children. I find it a psychological phenomenon that you spend so much time attacking and criticizing the Vogel family. In the words of William Shatner, “Get a life!” The Vogels’ already have a life of their own.

    • You make an apt comparison, actually: what the Vogels are doing is very comparable to the parents who force their children into being models, actors, musical prodigies and athletes, with Mom and Dad as manager, coach, spokesperson, etc, with a salary, of course. I have written about them, too…I love the argument, “Why not go after them?” as a deflection of legitimate inquiry. “They do it to!” Yes, indeed they do. I can’t write about everything at once.

      The Vogel parents have a life that they chose, and and can change when they please. It was not chosen with the kids’ best interest in mind, but rather the father. The children are sacrificing their childhood for the parents….they have no life, and the odds are strong that their future will be adversely affected by this experience. “So much time”? There are 768 posts on ethics alarms, and one about the Vogels. I have spent more time, a lot more, thinking about and writing about John Edwards, Tiger Woods, and Mark Kirk. I suppose you think I’m jealous of them, too.

      I’m surprised: I really thought the “You’re just jealous!” retort to legitimate criticism went out with Junior High. Then again, you may be a 7th grader:if so, I commend you for your writing skills and interest in an ethics site. But trust me, kid: the Vogels need to be scrutinized, for the good of the children.

  6. Stephanie

    “adversely affected”? Are you serious? Better they sit home alone while both parents work full time away from home to support the “conventional” lifestyle that the majority of Americans who wander through life thinking thoughts like “he who has the most toys wins”? Would that be better? I mean, really…they could then sit in front of a television or a computer screen in the late afternoons and gasp…they could have parents that let them eat in their rooms in front of the computer and not even know the joys of sitting together as a family around the dinner table. One thing that is NOT going on here, is child exploitation in ANY shape or form. The Vogel’s have more love for eachother than way to many people cannot even fathom.

    For the record, I’m not saying raising questions is a bad thing, but your article is much too accusatory to even begin to have merit.

    • In a word, nonsense. Raising straw men by describing other poor child-rearing environments is no argument at all. When one of the children is hit by a car, or when one of the twins admits in a memoir that the boys felt intimidated into going along, then people like you will be wringing their hands and crying, “How did we let this happen? How could we have missed the warning signs?” FACT: kids need homes. FACT: using your children as a fundraising hook is exploitive. FACT: the Vogels have a conflict of interest. Do you really think it will be healthy for the kids to be on this cycle trip to nowhere forever? How long, do you think, before a lifestyle with no community, constant travel and no permanent home begin to be an impediment to normal development? Ten years? You really think 5 years is OK? “The Vogels have more love for each other than way to many people cannot even fathom.” Sure—the same could be said of the members of a cult, which the Vogel family resembles in several alarming ways. This is a copout. Many loving parents do irresponsible, harmful things to their children. Love doesn’t excuse everything.

      It’s fine to be asking questions, you claim, but nobody is asking them, and won’t, unless people start taking the potential threat to the twins seriously. Tell me a nice way to suggest that parents may be using the kids and sacrificing their safety and emotional health for their own selfish ends, and I’ll be happy to employ it.

      • Helen S.

        1. “FACT: kids need homes. ”

        You mean, only the kind of home YOU approve of. A nice camping tent with Eddie Bauer air mattresses or a nice hotel room, both with loving parents attending to their every need 24/7, could not possibly be a “home.” No, the Jack-Marshall-approved home has to be made of wood or brick–parental attention is optional–especially if they are working hard to pay for said wood/brick.

        2. “FACT: using your children as a fundraising hook is exploitive.”

        Just because you say so doesn’t make it “fact.” Proof would be nice.

        But never mind that. I guess parents who put their cancer-stricken kid’s photo on a jar to raise money for their cancer treatment is exploitive too.

        3. FACT: the Vogels have a conflict of interest.

        Again, just because you say so doesn’t make it fact.

        But never mind that. A diplomat family who moves from country to country every 2 years has a conflict of interest. Sometimes, the kids get tired of moving and want to stay with their new friends. This can be said about any family. That is what families are: a confederation of conflicts of interests. Conflict doesn’t automatically mean exploitation/abuse, as you imply.

    • Another Stephanie

      I read both blogs…I do understand on the surface this seems like a big love fest of an alternative lifestyle–but they left a man to die, yelled at their kid for throwing and wasting good food, prepared food on the floor of public restrooms which Nancy not only writes about but posts photos of, has their child operated on by what Nancy describes as a drunk surgeon, John writes of fantasies of waking up alone without a wife and children to worry about, on the first trip to teach the boys a lesson he leaves them at night miles away to fare for themselves and keep up with him on a highway that he describes without guardrails and treacherous cliffs…and that’s not at the very least worth looking INTO?

      • Stephanie 2—Yes, the Vogel-enablers like to treat their life-style as an abstraction and ignore messy details of reality, like the things you mentioned (i didn’t have room for the restroom kitchen story).

      • Helen S.

        Another Stephanie,

        You listed 7 instances of what you consider to constitute, shall we say, “probable cause” for investigating possible abuse. For the sake of argument, let’s pretend all those instances are as horrible as you make them out to be (without putting them in context).

        What you fail to mention, conveniently, is that you found 7 instances in over 730 days of their journey. Do you think, that if you looked at the last 730 days of ANY family’s life, especially if they are traveling during some of those days, that you wouldn’t find 7 instances of craziness or yelling or misadventure or discouragement or encounter with a doctor who was less competent than you had hoped?

        Do you think I wouldn’t be able to find 7 instances in YOUR family’s life in the last 2 years? Puhleeze.

        • Another Stephanie

          Read the blogs. There were NOT 7 incidents, those were just the 7 I used as examples.

          I am constantly amazed with this family how people “assume” these things are embellished when Nancy, John and the boys are the ones that posted them.

          • Helen S.

            Yes, they posted them. They could have hidden them or white-washed them, but they didn’t. They showed us their less-than-perfect-parenting dirty laundry. It is quite hypocritical to point to their dirty laundry as if we don’t have our own.

            My point though, was you found very few incidents compared to the amount of time that passed. My point is also that the percentage of less-than-perfect-parenting moments in your own family (or anyone’s family) is comparable.

            • Another Stephanie

              Helen I do understand what you’re trying to convey, but I seriously doubt you would find ANYTHING in my nearly 20 years as a parent remotely close to even just the seven incidents I pointed out. My children do not go to bed hungry regularly, are not on water rationing, are not obsessed with having food (a recent entry was being disappointed in not having anything inside an empanada) and my children have not had the need for me to only be able to choose a doctor under the influence.

              But taking me out of the equation–being that I don’t travel in the way the Vogels choose to. Both of the Vogels stated to be capable of being educators and providing basic needs to their children but they CHOOSE not to. It’s weird because some people have pointed out that “families are not run by children” yet then say “but these children choose” which seems contradictory to me.

              Furthermore, there are other families that choose a lifestyle similar…like the Verhages who eem to be living a much healthier lifestyle. Their children seem happy, well fed, clothed, the parents have a well-thought out and well-planned school ciriculum for their kids and like Nancy herself pointed out the Verhages seem to be more focused on their children well being and safety when the Verhages’ father deemed it too dangerous to sleep where they vogels chose to in unsafe places.

              This family is USING their children for monetary gain and from what is able to be gleaned from the blogs they have no intent in changing that. The boys pointed out they NEVER wanted to do this again in an interview in their hometown paper as well as their blogs. But Nancy dangled a carrot and of course being children they followed.

              Children can get to 18 in even the most heinous of circumstances–but is the goal in life making it to 18 alive or is it to learn about yourself and others, as well as be able to communicate (i.e., speaking at least Spanish in Central and South America is helpful and the boys do NOT as indicated by the boys and Nancy’s blogs) and get along in ANY society..i.e., not just Western. I supposed you (not YOU Nancy but a general you) type of childhood rearing and turn it into “well heck he made it to 18″ but if that is your only goal to be a successful parent–society has sunk pretty low.

            • 1) The issue is not the individual “incidents.” They are consequences of the underlying problem. The issue is the endless trip itself. 2) You do not understand the concept of hypocrisy. Pointing out and criticizing conduct you may have been guilty of yourself is not hypocrisy. If I were going forward with a 4-year bike trip using my own child as a peddling cash cow, while raising questions about the Vogels’ trip, THAT would be hypocrisy. (But I’m not.) 3) The fact that Nancy posts as alarming incidents as she does only creates legitimate suspicions about what she must be leaving out.

        • Barb

          Oh goodness there were more than 7 incidents. How long could the article be?

          Some of the worst ones were
          – letting one of the boys go off (at age 8) alone in a pickup truck after dark with a stranger…
          – letting a drunk doctor operate on a toe and then – darn it! Only one of the toes was operated on!!
          – leaving a man who had been wandering in the desert for 10 days and whose companion most likely was dead – without blogging about sending help from the next town which is what most people would have done,
          – Biking through countries, because there was no other way, that the US State Department had issued warnings for its citizens NOT to go to……
          – when one of the boys threw up carrots one night, the blog comment was “what a waste of food”
          – cooking on the bathroom floor complete with picture
          – the puppies by the side of the road

          this is off the top of my head. If I went back into the blogs I could find many more.

          I also wonder what so many hours, days, weeks, years on a bike starting so young is doing to future fertility.

        • Seven instances of potential harm to a child because the child is living on the road and forced to bike many miles a week? I think most people can say honestly that they haven’t had seven—or even one.

  7. Stephanie

    then people like you will be wringing their hands and crying, “How did we let this happen? How could we have missed the warning signs?”

    People like me? I write a few sentences on your asinine comments and you purport to KNOW me?

    You know NOTHING about me, and what I will think or sayor do in the future. Well, maybe you are getting a clue and if you are this won’t come as a surprise…you are nothing but a windbag. Get out and breathe some of that wonderful oxygen in the great outdoors. Wait, never mind…you are a waste of oxygen already. (and cyberspace too, I might add).

    • Roberta

      Stephanie – are you sure you aren’t “Nancy”? Or 12?

      I came upon this site linked via another site, and read the column with an open mind, not really knowing what to expect. I’ve never heard of the Vogels or this biking expedition.

      The author of the piece gives us information and offered questions that are thoughtful and thought provoking. There are questions that need to be answered in regard to this family and their “journey.” How can anyone not agree with that? The welfare of children is not just the concern of parents; the welfare of children is everyone’s concern. Well, except Stephanie’s.

      To the author of the article I would say – you have presented questions that indeed should be answered. Perhaps if one could ascertain an itinerary of the trip, authorities could seek them out on their next stop.

      All it would take is a call to the child abuse hotline in whichever state they are in. All calls must be investigated, from my understanding, and the calls can be anonymous.

      • Helen S.

        As a social worker and a child psychologist, I would like to say this. PLEASE do not call the child abuse hotline flippantly. Do not call if you just want to go on a fishing expedition because you don’t find someone’s child rearing methods to your liking. Yes, the social worker has to investigate, and most times, the parents have to hire a lawyer. These are not light accusations. They are many serious and legal consequences, including the trauma the children have to go through, wondering if they will be taken from the parents they love to stay with complete strangers. CPS has the power to take the kids away first, and force the parents to prove they are innocent before they get the kids back. ALL families, whether the parents are innocent or guilty, suffer from a CPS visit. The innocent ones get to keep the kids or get their kids back–but not before a lot of emotional and financial strain on the family, including the kids. The thousands of dollars spent on a lawyer could have gone to the kids. So… before you call, please think if you want to take that much money away from the kids and the family, if you want the kids to suffer that kind of trauma if nothing turns up.

        Moreover, calls on innocent parents wastes CPS’s time, that could have been better spent on serious abuses. Think about whether the CPS worker might end up saying, “Good grief. They called me in for THIS???”

        • 1) I don’t know that anyone’s suggesting that. Someone can raise the issue that particular conduct is unhealthy or wrong without it rising to the level of state intervention..absent actual lawbreaking, of course. I’d say the Vogels, at very least, have managed to avoid legal violations. But the law is the dead bottom floor of acceptable conduct. Ethics aims higher.
          2) Not all child abuse is prosecutable. I have seen great cruelty by parents…I know a parent who gave away his son’s puppy as punishment for not doing his homework. That’s a form of abuse. I wouldn’t call the hotline about it, because it is within a range of legal misconduct.
          3) What good is a system that one discourages calls because of the inconvenience and expense to the innocent? Would you make the same argument about a rape hotline? I don’t see the difference, except that we are more tolerant of child abuse.

        • Roberta

          Helen, I used to work as a data processor in a state child protection team clinic/office. I processed all call data from five surrounding counties by inserting the information into two state databases which was then followed up on by investigators and by medical personnel.

          Our office also served as a medical clinic affiliated with the university teaching hospital across the street.

          My job was one of the most tedious jobs I ever had. But every single call had to be processed and investigated within 24 hours or less of receiving the call(s). We received literally hundreds of call data per day via that hotline, and I therefore processed hundreds of cases per day. At the end of the day, I began processing cases into the databases which had been closed.

          While tedious – and I wasn’t the only processor in the office – at no point in the two years I worked there did any one of us complain about the “type” of call data we processed. It didn’t matter if it “seemed” frivolous – it still had to be investigated.

          What I was heartened to learn was that most of the calls were indeed baseless in accusation; many were simply neighbors concerned for a neighbor’s child, and were soon closed out of the database.

          Children of suspected child abuse were treated both in emergency situations and long-term via our clinic. They received medical care and psychological counseling. I often dealt with those reports, also.

          The point is, whenever there is suspected child abuse do NOT hesitate to report it to the child abuse hotline in your state. It is not up to those who report suspected abuse to determine if it is indeed “abuse” – that is what the investigators and medical personnel are for. If the case turns out to be baseless, it is processed out of the system.

          Again – at no point in my two and a half year tenure with the Child Protection Team (as we were called) did anyone “complain” about the “amount” of call data we received. On the contrary, I know that I was always pleased to note that I closed out many more cases “without merit/cause” than the opposite.

          I still believe that someone needs to make a call to the child abuse hotline in the next state the Vogels visit for all the reasons listed in this article by Jack Marshall.

          • Helen S.

            “What I was heartened to learn was that most of the calls were indeed baseless in accusation; many were simply neighbors concerned for a neighbor’s child, and were soon closed out of the database.”

            Each one of these baseless calls is traumatic for the children. It requires the parents to spend financial and other resources, resources that could have been spent on the kids, to establish that the calls were baseless. It is no skin off your nose to process a baseless call. But I am trying to let you know what happens on the family side of process–it is a PAINFUL process for the children and the innocent parents.

            I have heard “They called me here for THIS?” They mutter such things in the privacy of their cars, or sometimes, even to the family they’re talking to. It is very unlikely for a data processor to such comments. It doesn’t mean they aren’t said.

            So, before someone decides to inflict PAIN on a family, please consider that calling the hotline is like calling the cops and accusing someone of a crime. They are going to have to get a lawyer, which costs thousands and thousands of dollars. (Please realize this is money you are taking from the kids.) If you aren’t sure and just want the situation investigated, investigate it yourself. Talk to the parents, talk to the kids yourself, get a better feel for what’s going on before involving the legal authorities.

            If you have reason to suspect that a *crime* is being committed, yes, by all means, do not hesitate to call the child abuse hotline.

            If it is something minor, a matter of ethics rather than a crime, it is better for the kids that you befriend the parents and the family and persuade them to change, rather than to sic the legal authorities on them to force them to change. If there is no crime, it most likely will only cause pain and suffering before the case is closed.

            I’ll leave you with this. What would you prefer that others do with YOU, if they saw something you were doing that they considered unethical (but not criminal)?

    • To explain basic comparative language, Stephanie 1, I meant, by “people like you,” people who, like you, shrug off possible child endangerment until something bad happens. You say you’ll shrug it off even after something bad happens? OK—then I misjudged you; I assumed you had a learning curve. My mistake.

      The other kinds of people like you are those without analytical skills, logic, or open minds, who resort to insults and name-calling because they have nothing enlightening or persuasive to offer, just predetermined assumptions and biases. And I do know enough about you, just from a couple of posts, to make that assessment.

      • Roberta

        Indeed, Jack – Stephanie didn’t seem to offer much to the discussion.

        Actually, I was reluctant at first to offer more than a comment or two about your column with the suggestion of a call to the child abuse hotline. Sorry to be so coy initially about my time in the trenches with CPT in my state, but I thought my suggestion of a call to the hotline would be enough. I find it disingenuous for someone else, who claims to be in social work and a child psychologist, to discourage anyone from calling the abuse hotline.

        At no time in my tenure with CPT did I EVER hear a co-worker, whether doctor, nurse, case coordinator, staff psychologist or data processor, say “They called me [the hotline] for THIS?” To do so would have indicated a low level of professionalism and actually, a low level of sensitivity about the effectiveness of the abuse hotline.

        The doctors, nurses, case coordinators, psychologists helped many, many children and families during my time on the job. They took their job and their responsibilities seriously.

        Believe me, no call was ever considered “flippant.”

        I hope someone can more fully investigate how the Vogel children are faring on their long journey.

  8. Not socializing? They socialize every day with the people around them.

    No community? They enter lots of various communities as guest and usually fairly warmly welcomed.

    Not wanting to ride? They have turned down several side trips because they could not ride their bicycle trip there, they would have to ride a bus or a train.

    Unsafe being on their own? You have not read “Free Range Kids”. Also, you may not be familiar with the average annual statistics on kidnapped children in the U.S. About 250,000 kids are kidnapped every year, 110 by strangers. Keep them kids away from the ex in-laws, they do 99.98% of the kidnapping. No matter that they have court ordered visitation rights.

    • Word games don’t address the issue, Mike. Kids go to school and have regular communities of friends and neighbors because just hanging out with one’s parents and twin brother does not teach socialization skills. Going through many communities does not make the Vogels part of one—obviously. If you want to be willfully obtuse, that’s your choice, but don’t insult the intelligence of everyone else by pretending that is a real argument.

      • Anissa

        Schools do not teach socialization skills. When we put a child in a room with 30 other kids the same age and tell them to learn the same things at the same time we create the oppositie of socialization. Children learn social skills from adults not other children. The Vogel boys are getting a better education and have better friends than most children. They will grow up with far fewer problems than the children currently locked in the factory style schools we have created. You say you are a home educator, but in 12 years of home educating, I have never encountered someone like you.

        • You know, I have some experience with this, having actually been socialized. Here are just a few of the activities that build social skills for children that the Vogel kids cannot experience: School, clubs, races, Little League baseball, intramural sports, bike racing, interactive video games, Boy Scouts, contact with girls, hanging out at the mall, pick-up football games and basketball games, going to movies with friends, having more than your family at birthday parties, being in dramatic productions, singing in a glee club or choir, being in a rock band. All superb experiences, all sacrificed by the Vogel parents so they can play Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. You’ve never met any homeschooling parents who believe their children need interaction with other children? Wowzers. You need to get out more.

          • Anissa

            I was socialized too. I hated school because it was boring. I don’t remember being academically challenged until college. I was teased during jr. high and high school, and it was a miserable place. Not all kids need or want all of the “socialization” you cite. Some of it is fine, if the child is interested in it. Some of it is actually damaging. No 12 year-old needs many of the things you mention. These boys are not high school seniors, about to enter college. However, nothing on your list is in anyway necessary for a happy life. Nothing. (With the exception of “exposure to girls,” but since I don’t believe children should date one on one until ready for marriage, I don’t see that as a problem for the Vogels at this point.

            • I didn’t say all of those experiences are necessary. But the Vogel boys have no choice—they don’t know what they are, and there is no basis for them to “want” any of them. That’s the cult aspect. You know what else is invaluable? Watching TV. If and when they ever stop biking, they will be like visitors from another planet. You had a terrible school experience—I’m sorry. But it is coloring your judgement. (And you don’t have to DATE girls to know them, be friends with them, learn about them.)

              • Anissa

                Of course you don’t have to date to know the opposite sex. I just meant that it is not a priority at age 12. I disagree that TV is necessary. Most of what is on is horrid. The best thing that can happen to a family is for them to get rid of the TV. (We have one, but I would love to junk it.)

                Children should not be in charge of their own lives. They should have input of course, but the decsions about what is best is in the hands of parents. Homes should never be child centered. This leads to spoiled children, and they are the ones that will have trouble in life.

  9. Barb

    Read their blog.

    NO ONE need make any accusations. The blog does it all for them…in Nancy’s own words. All this article did was take HER words and write the article…..

    Read the blog.
    Read the first blog (from when they were 8) and the current blog. Read it all.

    No one has to make any accusations. It’s all in the blog.

    • 100% correct. Though GMA gave the Vogels a national platform to spin their actions without bothering to do the due diligence and read the blog. And there should be some accountability for that.

    • Helen S.

      I read the blog. I see a wonderful adventure with a few hardships. The same can be said of a camping trip. What Jack Marshall did is take a few quotations about the few hardships and make it sound like the kids suffer hardship every single day.

      Really, it is quite unethical reporting.

      • A wonderful, 4+ year adventure that may well go on for more years, in which children are deprived of a permanent home, normal relationships and any autonomy whatsoever, so the parents can use strangers’ concern for their kids to beg for money. Camping trips end. I would have many questions about a 5 year trip to the circus, or the barber shop.

        Unethical reporting is candy-coating a dubious enterprise, and not focusing on the kids’ welfare. (My piece, however, was not a news story.) I want to see the twins examined by an independent child psychologist to determine if they are OK. So should they, if they are what they claim—responsible parents. So should you.

  10. Sonya

    Dear Jack,

    I just want to thank you for taking the time to read the Vogel’s blogs and critically think about this trip. On the surface this trip sounds amazing, but when you “dig under the surface,” the reality of this trip is horrible. I have follow this family since their first trip (across the US). The concerns that you raise in your article have been brought the Nancy Vogel’s attention many times. However, it’s always been through an on-line medium where she had the power to delete messages or lock them so no further comments can be made. The Vogels do their best to eliminate any negative comments.

    I want to thank you for writing your article and allowing your readers to post their true feelings/concerns without fear that any negative comment will be deleted.

    I pray that these boys make him home safely. I also pray that one day the parents will realize that the care and well being of their children should come before their selfish desire to “follow a dream” that puts their son’s lives in danger.

    • The fact that Nancy Vogel deletes negative comments should give her supporters pause. That is the conduct of someone who knows she is doing something that cannot stand up to scrutiny. It is also unethical blog conduct.

  11. Michael

    Two words: “Surreal Life”

  12. Tim LeVier

    Jack,

    As always, thanks for writing! I agree with everything you said as well as everything your detractors have said. How’s that for confused?

    (Well, not everything…)

    Anyways, despite the dangers and challenges associated with this type of thing, I don’t think I mind any of it with the exception of the “Donations”. If you can’t do the trip without the “Donations” then you shouldn’t go on the trip. If you can’t provide for your child, then you need to do something else to provide or let someone else (the state) provide.

    I’m sure this family has all its ducks in a row right? They report their income and file their taxes right? They realize they aren’t a charity and that these aren’t “donations” right? These “donations” are voluntary payments to further encourage the Vogels’ ambitions.

    I’d like to see them realize their ambitions without standing on the shoulders of others. And who are these people that have so much extra money that they can afford to pay for other people’s vacations? I’d like to meet them and discuss me blogging from around the world….

    • Well, they do have a 501 (C) (3). How they treat all the handouts on the road is a good question.

      As usual, you are astute: the donations change the nature of the activity completely

    • Helen S.

      Tim,

      You should put the “Donations” issue in context. They are made either to the Reach The World program (an intercultural, geography educational resource) or to the Vogels to help them participate in Reach The World. Reach The World connects volunteer travelers who agree to journal for the program each week. Since they are teachers, it makes sense that the Vogels would participate in an educational charity.

      Now sometimes volunteers for non-profit programs ask for in-kind or cash donations to help them contribute. If you find that distasteful (“don’t volunteer unless you can afford it”), don’t give. But to issue a blanket accusation that these donations do nothing but to serve the Vogels’ ambitions is not accurate.

      • Helen S.

        An addendum:

        http://www.reachtheworld.org/AboutUs/SupportUs.htm

        Donors to RTW are allowed to donate to a specific journey.

        • Tim LeVier

          Helen,

          That makes it a bit better, so long as all donations for the Vogel’s journey are spent on their journey and any “excess” (as I understand it, excess is mythical in their situation) is returned to the donors or forwarded through the RTW organization.

          I’m all for adventure, danger, and living below one’s means. I’ve argued with Jack before about children’s rights and emancipation. Everyone seems to think that children need to be coddled, when really, they are more adept than we are.

          Now, despite all of that, all of what I have just said, I have to say this: It’s unethical not to do everything in your power to raise your kids in the “safest” possible environment….but we all walk that line, don’t we?

          Take a single mom renting the only apartment she can afford in the worst part of town. What will decide if she’s ethical or not is if she locked the front door at night.

          Raising your kids in a less safe environment than you can provide is unethical, but that needn’t be a bad thing. It’s a risk and sometimes it pays off. That’s what is referred to as Moral Luck.

          I guarantee you that I can point to any parent at one point in their life and show them when they were “unethical” and the only reason they didn’t know they were “unethical” is because Moral Luck worked out in their favor.

          Or maybe they do know they are being unethical, but they take precautions and mitigate risks so that they have an increased chance of having Good Moral Luck. Still unethical to take an unnecessary risk – but if nothing bad happens, you won’t care about being unethical.

          I don’t entirely know why people come to this site and get offended at a label of “unethical”. It’s a fact of life and a regular occurrence. You learn from it and you move on. It is a very nuanced subject and it trips up the best of people.

        • Barb

          Wow I love to travel and I’d love to have donations so I could also.

          They can look back and say We Have Always Depended On The Kindness Of Strangers instead of themselves.

  13. Helen S.

    “”It’s 2010 now, and the current trip is supposed to last until early 2011. They began in 2006. They had a break. 4 years, 5 years, something in between. The issue is unchanged 4 OR 5 years of being homeless on bikes is a large percentage of 12-year-old’s life. ”

    Twelve months on one trip in 2006, well over a year of living in a home/community, and then 27 months so far on this trip (2008 on) does not make 4 or 5 years of being homeless, and you know it. How on earth can you call yourself an ethics expert when you simply subtract 2006 from 2011, as if they were on their bikes continuously non-stop? Even on this trip, they take weeks off here, a month off there, living in homes or the same hotel, and take breaks from biking to enjoy and learn and help. You are misrepresenting them, and you know it.

    You are a LIAR.

    • Holly

      Helen does it really matter if it is 1 month or 1 year? The situations the Vogels themselves continue to describe frighten most parents.

      Really resorting to calling someone names isn’t a great way to get the point across.

      • It’s all she’s got, Holly. None of the defenders want to address the issue: the safety, welfare and social development of the children. It is an absolutist, “parents can do whatever they want with their kids and how dare you criticize” mindset—though Helen has added the amusing “but the kids have veto power!” fantasy. We should thank her for that.

      • Helen S.

        The Vogels have nearly 4000 friends on their Facebook page. I have never heard a single comment from them that indicates fear for the children.

        Their stories frighten SOME parents. Not MOST parents.

        [Comment redacted for civility.]

        • Holly

          Name calling is “you are a liar” catching someone in a lie is “you lied.”

          You are aware you can delete negative opinions or opinions you don’t want off Facebook? I *have* posted on Facebook AND the blogs several times…it will appear and then magically disappear sometimes in minutes (which makes me wonder HOW because they are supposedly riding bikes?). Obviously someone is closely monitoring.

          Helen I can’t even begin to tell you that you sound very naive with regards to the internet, and immature with your name calling and deflection. I probably should refrain from responding to you in the future. The blog speaks for itself as do your posts.

          • Barb

            Just the fact that anything negative that is posted on their blog disappears tells ME something.

            For example, if Jack were to operate this column and comments as the Vogels operate their blog, there would be about 2 comments here.

          • Helen S.

            “Name calling is ‘you are a liar’ catching someone in a lie is ‘you lied.’ ”

            OK, then by your definition, I am a name caller. Fair enough.

            Yes, of course, I know that you can delete negative comments. But deleted comments still arrive in one’s mailbox if one has “subscribed” to that thread, even if the comment is later deleted. I’ve been following their posts for a while, and I haven’t seen the fear your are ascribing to MOST parents. It seems, if what you were saying were true, out of nearly 4000 friends, I would have seen something somewhere once or a few times.

            Sure, I know there are SOME folks who find the stories frightening. But again, my challenge is that MOST do not.

            Feel free to refrain from responding to me. I am done here too. For good and for real. You guys have fun in your witchhunt!

    • Do you really feel that the exact time spent on the road in this endless journey is the issue? I have no interest in being the Vogels’ time-keeper, especially since, to all intents and purposes, the trip is open ended. The way I read it, they did not spend a whole year in Boise after Trip #1. It is estimated they will return to Idaho around February, 2011. By your count, that will be at least 45 months biking from ages 8 to 12 for the kids. OK—I 3 years and 9 months “4 years. (5 was in error—I’ll correct that). You really think the 3 month difference is material? You’re the big fan of court evidence: if I represented 3 years and 9 months as “4 years” on the witness stand, under oath, do you think that would be perjury?

      You have no arguments, Helen—just nitpicking and insults.

      • Helen S.

        This is not about the exact time. This is about a repeating pattern of misrepresentation of facts on your part. It goes to your credibility as an ethics expert.

        • There is no misrepresentation of facts whatsoever. I’m not going to bicker with you, and I’m not permitting you to continue impugning my honesty, as I have attempted to give your say, and have dignified your comments with individual responses, which I have no obligation to do. If you resort to insults one more time, with any commenter here or to me, you will be banned. You can disagree with me all you want, but I make every effort to be fair, even to those, like you, who abuse your status as a guest here. That’s your warning…there won’t be another.

    • Barb

      Whoa.

      They spent 12 months on the first trip.

      they have been on this trip for almost 2.5 years.

      So far that is 3.5 years.

      It will take at least 6 months (.5) to get to where they are going.

      Didn’t Jack say between 4-5 years?

      3.5 + .5 = 4.0 at the very least.

      and so what if it is off by a few months?

      Say it is 3.5 years, which it is at this very moment….the boys are now 12.5…. that is 28% of their lives, if you count from when they were born, but most of us don’t remember that far back (perhaps you do)….so let’s say their memories begin at age 4…..now we are up to almost 35% of their lives.

      That is a huge percentage.

      Again, what is this going to do to their future fertility? it can’t be good.

      • Helen S.

        12 months first trip.
        June 8, 2008 to present is 27 months (not 2.5 years).
        If they get to Ushuaia in December as planned, it would be 2.5 years. Maybe it will take a little longer since they stopped (note the word, “stopped”) a lot.

        Even if you wanted to misrepresent the 2 trips as one continuous trip, it will be 3.5 years to 4, with a lot of STOPS on the trip.

        Why do you insist on spinning that into 4-5 years?

        Are you ALL liars?

        • Barb

          whateveh hellen….

          I did say give or take a few months…in a trip of this duration what is 4-5 months.
          How do you know when they will get there? Anything could happen.

          all that time, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, whateveh, has got to be detrimental to growing boy parts also.

          I don’t think one has to resort to name-calling, it makes one look bad.

        • Tim LeVier

          I vote to recognize “stops” along the way as a part of the journey. Nomadic people always stop here or there for spells, but they are still nomads.

          For point of clarity, if we take the difference of today and June 8th, 2008 plus 12 months, we are at 3.25 years of nomadic existence. (Don’t take that to mean that nomadic is derogatory, I’m just trying to convey the evidence.)

          • As another point of clarity: the original post did not do the math anyway. I’m sorry if I imprudently used the estimate of five or four years in the comments, but comments are not edits to the original, or written with extensive fact-checking. I do not expect civil commenters to call me a liar if I make a mistake. Obviously I was not trying to deceive anyone when I provided the dates and links for anyone so inclined to determine exactly hwo long the journey is. Personally, I regard it as open-ended. Of course rest stops, a week in one place, etc, are part of the trip, and a hotel is not “home.”

  14. Just to set the record straight… We spent 12 months nearly to the day on the first trip and have been on the road now for 27 months on this trip. That makes 39 months now with another 6 or 7 months expected.

    Given that my sons are now 12 years old and they have now spent just over three years on the road, that means they’ve spent about one quarter of their lives on the road!!! I wish I had been so lucky as a child…

    I won’t bother with all the other errors in this post – it’s simply not worth my time. I’m too busy living a fabulous life WITH my husband and children to bother with this drivel.

  15. Dear Jack: That last comment of your’s summed up the entire question. That lies at the heart of all matters of child exploitation. The children cease to be beloved sons and daughters for the own sake… and devolve into tools for the agenda of their supervising adults. Once that step has been taken- and if there is “no controlling legal authority”- then any abuse is possible. The entertainment industry itself- and in all its aspects- has become a showplace for this sort of thing. That’s because they so often get a pass from laws that would constrain the rest of us, were we so inclined to such abuses. It’s little wonder that the Vogels have sought both refuge (and profit) under the Industry’s “big umbrella”.

  16. Pingback: On the Road With “The Biking Vogels”: What the Kids Are Learning « Ethics Alarms

  17. Pingback: Dear Jack Marshall, are we self-absorbed parents? | Family on Bikes

  18. Rachel Denning

    This article holds no credibility because the underlying facts are wrong. One of which is that the Vogels do not earn their income from their website which ‘exploits’ their children. They have rental income from owning real estate.

    I’m reminded of another quote: “Critics don’t contribute. Cynics don’t inspire. Doubters do not achieve.”

    Who are you to judge another for their lifestyle choices, or parenting approach? We all do what we believe is the best for our family, and we should respect each others choices.

    Just because the Vogel boys face challenges that they average AMERICAN youth might not face, doesn’t mean they are being exploited. I would say it means they are developing character – the type of character development which too many young Americans are not receiving these days.

    Way to go Vogels! I applaud your efforts!

    • A passionate crock, Rachel. Yes, of course the fact that the Vogels have supplementary income disproves the entire thesis of my posts…that forcing one’s kids to live their lives on bikes because YOU want to live that way is pure, selfish, indefensible child abuse.

      “We all do what we believe is the best for our family, and we should respect each others choices.” Utter nonsense—I doubt that you even believe this. Some parents “choose” to raise their kids in household full of drugs and booze. Some parents choose to physically abuse their kids, or teach them to be racists, or lead them to reject modern society and science. And some parents force their children to spend the majority of their lives on bicycles. I don’t have to respect families whose treatment of their children isn’t respectable, or fair, or kind or rational. Who am I? I’m someone, unlike you, who can honestly say that I saw this abusive treatment and tried to call attention to it and stop it, rather than applaud it, like you.

      I agree: “Just because the Vogel boys face challenges that they average AMERICAN youth might not face, doesn’t mean they are being exploited.” The fact that they are being exploited means that they are being exploited.

      Thanks for writing.

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