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Visas for spouse and kids - 10-month sabbatical (Florence)

I'm planning on taking a sabbatical and studying in Sienna next year and will be bringing my spouse and 4 children with me. If you know anyone who has done anything similar, can you please help me get in touch. It seems like we need to get a student Visa before we go, and then apply for a permission to get a family reunion visa while in Italy, and if they approve that in Italy then fly back to the states and actually apply for the visa, and then wait for it.

If all goes well we can then go back to Italy and stay for the rest of the year... otherwise we're limited to 90 days.

Are there other options? Does a self-employment visa work the same way?

If you know of anyone who has been through this and can help confirm we're approaching it the right way, or offer assurances that the process *does* work, or even better advise us to a better way, it would be greatly appreciated.

We don't need work or anything... just the visa and permission to be in the EU.

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