I found my homeschooling days to go much more smoothly the times I produced lesson plans before the year began. There was more peace in the home and I experienced greater confidence.
Lesson plans helped me so greatly because they reduced the stress of homeschooling on a daily basis. It worked best for me to create lesson plans for one semester and then create more over Christmas for the next semester. Each child was given his lesson book and each day he knew exactly what to do. I could have told my children each hour what to do, but that would have required a lot of extra energy from me (asking what they had finished, thinking about what else we had on the list, listening to the sighs and groans when I told them to work on this or that). It would have been exhausting, really. When I put the planning effort in beforehand, it made the school year much less draining for me.
In the early years of homeschooling, I would put up a generalized checklist and have my children check the subject when it was done. This worked just fine for a few years. However, because of added responsibility in my life, I needed the list to be more detailed. So I upgraded their lesson plans and started writing down exactly what page they should do in math, which pages to read in science, and every last detail of every assignment— attempting to coordinate this with extra curricular stuff as well. This required a great deal of upfront work, but it truly be helped me remain sane!
Having a detailed schedule for my children empowered them to take responsibility over their learning, and my job changed from governor to facilitator. I would sit alongside while they went through their list so I could answer specific questions related to the subject in question. This brought so much simplicity and freedom to our homeschooling.
I do highly recommend scheduling for the busy homeschooler. Even if you like to take days off here and there for fun and field activities, a schedule will keep you more productive on the days when you are at home trying to churn out some schoolwork.
I liked to have the schedules bound into a book for the children to use. However, I would change the schedule from time to time and have to reprint and rebind the book! It was worth the effort though because it helped my children become more independent.