Modern family life can get pretty chaotic.
There are lots of moving pieces and often not as much coordination as we’d like.
We moms can feel like we’re flying by the seat of our pants from one day to the next.
And all this disorder wastes a lot of our valuable time and energy. It also puts unnecessary strain on our relationships with loved ones.
While no one family organizational hack will assure you a perfectly managed household, we can settle for the next best thing—simple to implement strategies that lead to a more organized and harmonious home.
After some trial and error, I’ve found a parenting tool that fits the bill. I call this parenting hack the family weekly review.
Scheduled weekly meet-ups with my kids have undeniably changed my home life for the better. And I’m confident they can do the same for you.
Eager to hear more?
What’s a weekly review?
You’re likely wondering—so, what’s a family weekly review?
And what’s the big deal?
As a busy mom, you’ve got a lot your plate. The last thing you need is to waste your precious time and energy on a parenting tool that doesn’t pan out.
But I’m here to assure you that family weekly reviews are worth the investment.
I first came across the idea of weekly reviews through productivity guru David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD). If you haven’t heard of Allen’s work, it’s a work-life management system intended to help people get the most out of their lives.
Allen’s approach has helped me tame the chaos and lead a more present, intentional life. The same is also true for my husband.
As part of the GTD system, Allen introduces weekly reviews as an indispensable practice for staying organized.
This strategy involves committing time weekly to go over what’s happening in your life. Importantly, it’s a practice that keeps your days running smoothly and aligned with what matters most.
Why is the weekly review a useful parenting tool?
Okay, so a weekly review is helpful for adults. But what about for children?
After witnessing the benefits of the GTD system for grown-ups, I found myself wondering if something similar would also help my kids. Oh, and with the secondary benefit of a less chaotic home.
And from this hopeful thought the family weekly review was born!
Like the adult version, a family weekly review helps keep my children (and the entire household) better organized. So, less disorder, rush, arguing, lateness, etc.
And what mom doesn’t want less stress and strife in her life?
The review has many additional benefits including:
- Weekly one-on-one time with each of my kids
- The opportunity for my kids to learn valuable organization and problem solving skills
- Better family communication
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you of the benefits. And with those wonderful perks in mind, let’s dive into family weekly review essentials.
Family weekly review: the essentials
In this section we’re going to dive into family weekly review basics. This includes the who, where, what, how long, and how often of these get-togethers.
In the subsequent section, we’ll look at the “how to” of weekly review sessions. You may find it helpful to read through the entire post, first, then circle back to previous sections for more clarity.
There are a lot of interlinked concepts and the process will make more sense once you have an idea of the whole picture.
I do weekly reviews with my all three of my kids who range in age from 5 to 10 years old. While the general approach is the same, the process is simplified and streamlined for the youngest.
Some aspects of the weekly review may apply to kids less than 5 years old. However, I suggest you go with what feels right for your children. You know your kids best!
Even children of the same age can differ greatly in terms of their developmental stage. So, some experimentation is required to figure out what works well for your unique family.
Also, I do weekly reviews individually with each child.
I find this system works best as it compacts the review session into a more manageable time frame— something especially important for younger kids and children with shorter attention spans.
Doing individual sessions also allows me to focus on an individual child, which makes for some nice one-on-one time.
But what if you’re short on time?
Reviewing with multiple children, simultaneously, is certainly a possibility. Some families even find a joint weekly review a better approach.
The big benefit of a group review is real-time coordination of schedules and joint problem solving—something harder to do with individual planning sessions.
For example, if two children have conflicting events, multiple family member will need to get involved to make both activities work.
If you’re not sure, consider trying both individual and group weekly reviews. Then weigh the pros and cons of both methods to find which strategy works best for your family.
I suggest looking for a location with minimal distractions.
Consider a room where you can keep other family members within ear shot but that’s not the epicentre of family activity.
Another consideration is convenience.
Is there a spot where you already have weekly review materials easily accessible such as paper and writing utensils? That way, you can minimize the prep and clean-up work afterwards.
For my family, the dining room makes a great weekly review spot.
It’s typically quieter than other areas within the home. But yet it’s still close to both the kitchen and playroom—allowing me to keep close tabs on home life.
And an added bonus?
The dining room contains a large table—great for spreading out papers and writing on. This room also happens to be where we keep our craft and school supplies—materials we use during our weekly check-ins.
Keeping distraction level and convenience in mind, what home area will work best for your family weekly review?
Sunday afternoon is my preferred time for the review as it’s typically the quietest point in our weekend. By the time Sunday rolls around, we’ve also started to gear up for the week ahead—so the timing works well for an organization and planning session.
We typically tie the Sunday review with an afternoon snack. After preparing a bite to eat, I sit down with my kids, one at a time, over a total 30-45 minute time block.
You’ll need to consider what day of the week works best for your family. And you may find that different days work best for different kids rather than doing the reviews back-to-back.
Whatever you decide, make the weekly review an essential part of your week.
Protecting this time is well worth it.
By holding regular meetings, you and your kids will more readily get into the groove of weekly reviews, cutting down on resistance and making the process run smoother.
And here’s a couple of extra tips to help ensure family weekly reviews happen.
Try to piggyback the weekly review off an already well established family routine such as after lunch or paired with an afternoon snack.
And consider letting your child choose the snack, which can serve as an added incentive to get them on board with the review process.
Each child’s meeting typically lasts in the realm of 10-15 minutes—so, not an overly onerous task especially if you’ve got a lot on the go.
You can, of course, meet for longer depending on what works best for you and your kids. But consider starting small and building from there.
You’re more like to get weekly reviews up and running it the task isn’t too demanding.
We aim to hold reviews, weekly. This helps keep us on track from week-to-week.
The regularity of meetings also makes the process more pleasant and efficient.
Over time, the family weekly review has become a normal part of our Sundays.
In fact, the kids now even chat spontaneously amongst themselves on Sunday mornings about who will be the first to review later that day.
And while there are still occasional grumbles, my kids seem to enjoy the one-on-one time to catch-up and prepare for the week ahead.
I think they’re also starting to see the benefits.
What to bring to the family weekly review
The materials you bring to the weekly review will depend on what you want to cover and how you’ll record events and tasks.
Below, you’ll find a list of the materials we typically use. A more detailed explanation of how we use these items during our weekly sessions is provided in the next section.
But, for now, here’s a list of commonly used review items:
- Child’s individual capture bucket: loose papers are deposited here throughout the week then sorted at the weekly review
- Weekly paper chart: to record what’s happening in the week ahead
- Spare paper: to jot down ideas or tasks that require follow-up
- Writing utensils: paper, pencil, markers
- Electronic device: to look up information and place lunch orders
- My own agenda: to record events that are beyond the one week mark
Family weekly review paper chart
We like to use a paper-based rather than electronic weekly calendar system. My favourite one, so far, is a paper template from a local Canadian retailer called the Dollarama. I’ve included a photo of this template below.
The Dollarama paper scheduler has eight columns (one column for family names and seven for each of the days of the week) and four rows (one for each of my three kids and one for the family as a whole).
This purchased template also comes with some handy colourful post-it notes. We’ve used these notes, on occasion, to jot down an address, contact information, or small list of supplies related to a specific event. Once completed, the note is stuck to the relevant calendar block until needed.
If you have common events that occur weekly (e.g., tutoring, sports), you can consider creating a master Microsoft Word document or Canva template that includes these activities and you can print weekly. That way you don’t have to keep writing the same events over and over again.
For me, the limiting factor to adopting this more efficient system is space. I really like the big 12″x18″ size of the Dollarama sheets. This saves me from trying to cram family information onto a typical 8.5×11″ sheet of paper. However, I may eventually switch to individual weekly review sheets for each child. In this case, I’ll likely start using a printable template.
A white board weekly review calendar is another option, with the bonus of saving on paper. Using an erasable board also offers the possibility of carrying over reoccurring details, week-by-week, rather than starting fresh at each review session.
As part of the weekly planning process, I sometimes look up information and place orders (e.g., school lunches) on my phone or laptop.
Many kids also use an online school platform to track assignments and due dates. In this case, having a device at the meeting can help with this aspect of the planning process.
But a word of caution.
Some kids (and adults, too) may find tech overly distracting—derailing what might otherwise be a productive meeting.
If this is the case, save online school calendar checks, research, and lunch orders as a post-review task.
Depending on the age of your kids, you may want to add or subtract weekly review materials.
My 10-year-old sometimes has school assignments due several weeks in advance. So, he also uses a daily planner notebook, which allows for planning beyond the weekly schedule.
If your child uses a school binder or other physical organization system have them bring that item to the meeting as well.
Components of the family weekly review
Over time, and with tweaking, we’ve incorporated three main components into our weekly review sessions.
The system I share below works well for us. But feel free to add or subtract review agenda items. Different systems will work best for different families.
Finding the right approach has been a trial and error process as is true for all aspects of parenting.
Also, I expect what works well now will change over time as my children’s skills and needs evolve.
Here are the three main current components of our family weekly review:
- Discuss the past week
- Review the upcoming week
- Sort through loose papers
We’ll look at each of these components, in turn, below.
Review of the past week
We start the family weekly review by chatting about the previous week.
This is one of my favourite parts of the review as it allows me to hear what’s happening in my children’s lives.
To get things started, I’ll ask what went well and what challenges arose over the past week. My youngest likes to refer to this process as his “apple and pickle”—a system we also use at meals to share the best and worst parts of our day.
The apple and pickle approach is both fun and educational. It teaches kids that life is a natural mix of both positive and negative—setting the foundation for a balanced life outlook.
Additionally, finding something good about one’s life fosters gratitude and sharing something hard about one’s day or week helps kids feel heard and understood.
Added tips to help kids open up
Kids may resist offering information about their past week—and that’s okay.
We don’t want to force this. Sometimes, these types of conversations flow most naturally at spontaneous rather than pre-planned moments.
If you run into resistance, try starting with the best and worst part of your week. This may help kids warm up to the idea and help clarify what information you’d like them to share.
Also, active listening is key.
It’s easy to slip into the mode of listening to respond rather than to understand. Sometimes kids (and adults, too) just want an empathic ear rather than someone to help them problem solve.
So, when it comes to the “pickle” of the week, try gauging where your child is at. Sometimes problem solving is best left for another time.
And as is the case for many things in life, practice helps.
The more your family gets into the groove of holding weekly reviews—including talking about the past week—the more likely kids are to openly share.
Review the upcoming week
After hearing about my child’s past week, we move on to the week ahead.
During this stage of the process, we focus on four main categories: school, home life, extracurriculars, and special life events (e.g., trips, birthdays). You’ll want to come up with categories that best relate to your kids and family.
Under the school category we include school-related events (e.g., field trips, theme days), meals (e.g., hot lunch orders for the week), and due dates (e.g., homework, library book returns).
You can move through this process using categories, by day of the week, or a combination of both. We typically organize this part of the review by day of the week, Monday through to Sunday, pausing on each day to determine any important details.
As date specific items come up, we write this information down on the child’s section of the weekly calendar. We’ll also do some planning, as needed.
For example, if there’s a large homework assignment due on Friday, we’ll figure out how to chunk this into more manageable daily bites. Or, if there’s an upcoming theme day, we’ll talk about what the child needs to prepare, in advance.
More tips to track upcoming events
For kids still learning to read, consider adding sketches or pictures to illustrate daily events and other date specific details. Pairing pictures and words on the chart can also help kids build their vocabulary.
We record household-related events, such as family outings, in the section labelled “family.” I also use the family part of the weekly chart to record doctor and dentist appointments as well as adult-related scheduling details (e.g., mommy and daddy nights out).
If important dates crop up beyond of the one week mark, I jot these down in my personal agenda.
As a side note, we used to have a monthly family calendar on the wall. However, I found the calendar got too busy and the message lost in the details. At my kids current developmental stage, sticking to the week ahead works best.
As is true for all the information in this post, do what works for you—whether that’s a weekly calendar, monthly scheduling system, or combination of the two.
We end the weekly review with paper sorting.
Over the course of the week, loose papers from school and home projects are collected in bins. Each child has their own container, labelled with their name, and easily totted to the weekly review.
As part of the after-school routine, my children are responsible for removing papers (along with other items such as lunch satchels) from their school bags. The papers go into an Ikea Trofast system within our mud room. Each child has their own designated bucket.
I’ll glance through these papers upon their arrival, putting anything that looks time sensitive into my own paper “in box.”
At the weekly review, we go through the contents of each child’s bin, with papers designated into one of three piles:
- Action step required
- Keep (art work to temporarily display or store as potential memento)
- Don’t keep (recycle)
The action step pile refers to papers that require further attention. This category includes papers about upcoming school events, forms to complete, birthday party invites, etc.
As each paper item is reviewed, we add details to the weekly calendar (or to my monthly calendar) and make note of planning steps (e.g., buy a gift for friend’s birthday) as needed.
What to do with the memento pile?
We transfer keep-worthy papers into a larger downstairs bucket. This bin gets downsized, in turn, once it’s full.
This is the system we’ve found works best for our family, at least in this season of our life.
My children approach their belongings very differently. While the youngest rarely wants to hold onto anything, the eldest is highly invested in keeping everything, and the middle child falls somewhere in between.
The downstairs bucket system works especially well for the eldest as it allows for a little space—and perspective—before having to let most of the paper items go. The goal by the end of the current school year is to have the keep paper pile fit into a single file folder folder.
What type of paper collection and sorting system do you think will work best for your family?
Post your family weekly review calendar
Once you’ve completed your review, it’s time to post your weekly calendar somewhere prominent.
For my family, the ideal spot is in the entrance way between our kitchen and mudroom. We almost always leave the house via this route, making this threshold the ideal place for our weekly calendar.
And make sure all family members are aware of where to find the chart and how to use it!
To help your family get used to the new system, bring your children’s attention to the weekly calendar on a regular basis. And when the opportunity arises, point out how the chart helps your family get through the week smoothly.
Are you ready to try a family weekly review?
At this point, you should have a good sense of how to hold family weekly reviews.
Now it’s time to consider how this system can help your family lead a calmer and more coordinated life.
As with all aspects of parenting, you’ll need to find a system that works best for your unique household. So, please feel free to tweak my approach to ensure it best serves your family.
And regardless of what review system you end up using, I hope the family weekly review proves as helpful for your household as it has for ours.
What more family organization tips?
Then click through to read about another powerful parenting tools—family meetings.
I’ve got two options for you:
- Wishing for more cooperative kids? Host a family meeting: designed to get kids on board with new routines and parental expectations, such as a new bedtime routine
- Ultimate family meeting guide: a comprehensive approach to setting up and running family meetings to address a variety of home life issues.