"Then there's the fact that dd (3) just started preschool and loves it! She really enjoys the activities, the people, everything. Would she be missing out on something if I kept her at home?"
Unschooling is not about isolation, it's not about not doing things outside of the home. I would say that yes, if you did just keep her at home, she would be missing out on something. But keep in mind that preschool is not
school. Preschool is (or should be) about play, adventure, mental stimulation, and social interaction. I would hope that any unschooler would have opportunities for all of those things.
"Because I've always worked some, I've never had the full, SAH experience... sometimes my kids really drive me batty, and I hate to admit it but I look forward to the break I get from going to work. Could I be a good SAHM? Will I go insane?"
Does it have to be all or nothing though? Are your only two choices being with your kids 24/7 OR sending them to school?
"Then of course there's the little kernel of doubt inside of me that can't help but worry if the kids will learn everything they need to...will they really do it all on their own? Does every parent of unschoolers at times feel insecure about this issue?"
As far as I can see, the importance of the subject matter covered in schools is seriously over-rated. Looking back at my own schooling, there is so little of it that was/is of any real use to me. Most of my valuable learning happened outside
of school, and it is obvious to me that given the necessary resources all of it would easily have happened outside of school. And most kids today do have access to those resources. So the pertinent question becomes, will they take advantage of them on their own, or do they have to be pushed or coerced into doing so?
To me, this is a no-brainer. The most complex skill most of us will ever accomplish is to learn how to talk, and little children do it without being taught how, and without being pushed or coerced into it. They learn it because they have an intrinsic desire to engage with the world, and that desire is all (aside from access to information) anyone of any age needs to learn everything they really truly need to know. I don't believe for a second that this desire mysteriously disappears at age 3 or 5 or 7. What evolutionary sense would that make? What I think is that we are made to be neurotic about it. People develop eating disorders when they experience unnatural stress in the act of eating, or when their eating is articifically induced. It's the same with psychologically-based social disorders, sleeping disorders, you name it. Isn't it logical that it would be the same for learning?
I guess I'm not insecure about it because it makes about a zillion times more sense to me than the schooling theory of learning.
"There's also my family...I haven't mentioned a word of this to any of them, but I AND dh come from families of public school teachers. They will flip their lid if we decide to go through with this."
I know, that's tough. They're coming from such a different mindset, they can't conceive of how it could work. It's not their fault, but geez it makes for a lot of awkwardness and discomfort when the subject comes up. We haven't really talked about how
we are homeschooling, and I think that when they see our kids doing things like counting out change, it doesn't occur to them that our methods need to be examined and questioned. But none of our kids are reading yet (the oldest would be entering third grade this fall) and I know at some point somebody's going to figure that out and get in a tizzy over it. I figure I'll just bombard them with literature that explains our philosophy and hope that they don't want to get into a debate about it, because I have a LOT to stay about schooling (especially public) that would no doubt lead to hard feelings.
"Did all of you who unschool know you were going to do this from the get go, or did it just evolve as your kids got bigger?"
It evolved. I think that at first it was an extension of attachment parenting, my kids weren't ready to leave me all day, and I wasn't ready for that either. To me, there is something essential perverse and unnatural about coercively keeping children from their home and familly for most of the day. But then, as I started thinking about what kind of school they would go to eventually, I found that none of the schools in our area were acceptable to me for one reason or another. I frequented a progressive online forum at the time where a lot of people were talking about alternative educational theory, Steiner, Montessori, Holt, etc., and that was interesting enough to me to do a little further investigating. I thought for a while that a Waldorf or Montessori school would be the answer, but soon realized that we could never afford either, unless it was on complete scholarship. Then I read Escape From Childhood by John Holt and that deeply influenced my feelings about school in general, in particular leading me to question the popular belief that children must be forced to do this or that for their own good. The more I thought about it, the less able I was to justify putting them through any kind of schooling, until I got to the where I couldn't conscionably do anything *but* unschool.