Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Definition: Modular Family

The modular family is my own original term for a hypothetical family unit consisting of as many as 18 children of mixed ages and genetic parentage living under one roof. This unit is supported by an extended community of adults, but only one on-duty adult is required to directly supervise the group. The aim is to raise a large number of children in a healthy emotional environment while making optimal use of adult resources.

The term was first used in this video on 26 March 2019:


Compare the modular family to the traditional nuclear family, where 1-3 children are raised by 1-2 adults. The modular family is much more efficient, requiring fewer adult resources for routine activities. The modular family is intended to be a permanent institution that always maintains the same number of children with the same age spacing. As older children age out of the system, new babies are brought in.

The practical benefit of modular families is that the parent-child ratio is low. In the modular family, older children take care of younger children, and only one adult needs to be on duty at any time. Children in the family actively care for themselves, with older children being responsible for younger ones. A large family like this may be healthier for the children than a nuclear family, since they have a rich variety of relationships and must learn from their earliest years to work within a group and negotiate with others. They are also less likely to experience the crippling effects of overparenting.

"Modular parenting" is my own original term, invented on 9 March 2019. It could be
replaced by a different term if I find a better one. I have chosen 9-18 as the optimal number of children in the modular family because it allows for one child at each age, from infants to 18-year-olds. This is intended to minimize competition and encourage responsibility. If the family is working well, then only one supervising adult needs to be on duty at any one time. With several older teenagers in the family, it can even go for short periods without adult supervision.

Having only one child at each age means there is a clear hierarchy, with older children having greater status and responsibility. If there were more than one child at each age, there may be too much competition between them, and one of them would invariably monopolize most of the attention
of older and younger children.

In the modular family, the children themselves are a captive labor force. Every child who is old enough to do so is caring for younger children. Collectively, they are changing diapers, bathing babies, cleaning house and preparing meals, with only management supervision from the one on-duty adult. Being the adult parent is a professional responsibility, rewarded by the community like any other job. The group needs an adult to provide a stable leadership presence, but when things are running well, the children are doing most of the work of maintaining the household.

The children themselves don't see their responsibilities as "work" because they have been indoctrinated into this culture from birth. They understand that their job is caring for the group, especially those who are younger than them. Talking baby-talk to a baby is essential for their language development, but you don't need to be an adult to do it; any 8-year-old can do it just as effectively. The modular family harnesses the natural inclination of older kids to supervise younger kids. It gives them a feeling of power, so it doesn't seem like work at all. Furthermore, by teaching basic skills to a younger child, the older child is consolidating his or her own knowledge. Maybe someone else teaches you the ABC's, but what really reinforces them is you teaching them to someone else.

The modular family occupies a single stable location: a "house" with a name that the children take as a badge of identity. (Think of Gryffindor and Slytherin in the Harry Potter series, but in this house every age is represented.) The relationships formed in this house are permanent. The people you grew up with will always be your brothers and sisters, and you know you can always go to them for help and support. The modular family is a permanent institution with a stable population.
As older children age out of the house and move into the larger community, new infants are brought in. It is in some sense a "child factory", but potentially a warm, healthy and enjoyable
one.

There are many questions raised by this structure, to be addressed elsewhere in this project. They include:
  • Where do the babies come from?
  • Who provides the family's financial support?
  • What is the structure of the community that supports this family?
  • Is there a place for traditional classroom learning?
  • What is the place of technology in this family?
  • What is the culture these children are raised in?
This term was first announced on Twitter on 10 March 2019.

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