Wow, it sounds like you got a lot of great advice on how to organize and set up the lessons. I use a method similar to some of those listed, so I won't address that. I would like to say, however, that I have found that no matter what type of schedule I use, things never stay on track if I don't do a few simple things to help me actually follow through with my plan. When I do these things consistently, we are able to work the plan I have put into place and we have stress-free days of learning.
Here are the things that have helped me:
Have the children's work written out in some way, so they know what is expected. I also indicate by color on their sheet what they can do independently and what they need to do with me. This way, they can get started working on their assignments if I am working with someone else.
Get up before the kids and prepare myself. I take a look at their assignment sheets and see what they need from me in order to have a successful day. (Do they need their VP tests laid out?--things like this) I also check to see who will need my help in which subject, so I can budget my time. When making the weekly schedule, I try to make sure that I arrange things so that I don't spread myself too thin on any given day.
DO NOT answer the phone. This is a big one for me. I am on leadership of our HS co-op and get lots of calls. When I answer the phone, I always talk longer than I should and the kids get off track. They have unfinished work at the end of the day, because I was not available to go over things with them in a timely manner.
Keep outside activities that happen before 3:00 p.m. to a minimum. This is another big one for us. There was a time I was overly involved in "enrichment opportunities" outside our home way too many time each week. These were great, worthwhile experiences, but they happened to often. Now I am better at picking and choosing, saying no when I feel they would put too much stress on our lives. The three-hour Friday morning 4-H sewing class that lasted 8 weeks had to be passed by, for example.
Limit email time--*see phone:)
In a nut shell, when I focus on the school day and do not allow outside forces to worm their way in, we do much better. I am not crabby. The stress is reduced. The learning is fun. When we do this, we stay on track and have time to do those truly exciting things that come up. (Both my kids and I got parts in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever that was produced by our local children's theater. The schedule was intense for a time, but when the opportunity came up, we were able to say "yes" because we had said "no" to other things along the way.)
I hope this helps.