So learning about Columbus is a waste of time?
So, kind of what you're saying is that all the hours you were compelled to learn about Christopher Columbus in school were pretty much wasted?
The hours were wasted being forced to read about Columbus from dull textbooks in school.
If a child is living life in a rich environment, he can't not hear about Columbus. Columbus comes up in kids' cartoons all the time! :-) There are jokes. Columbus gets mentioned in commercials on Columbus Day.
If we look at what's available in the world and divide it into things they like/might like and things they don't like/might not like -- but their tastes will change and those aren't fixed categories -- then the like pile will contain good picture books. Some picture books will be about teddy bears and ice cream and spies and mysteries and different kinds of pasta and samurai and Columbus and trains and Pokemon. Columbus is just one of many things in the world. In real life he isn't separate from teddy bears. He's a like or not like, part of a joke or not part of a joke, in a TV show or not in a TV show.
Do you worry that you're kids won't find out about ice cream? Some kids actually don't like ice cream. But they know about and have sampled it.
Same with Columbus. Treat him like ice cream. Or turtles.
They'll think what they hear about him is interesting or not.
I try to remember that not everyone needs every thing they had to learn in school for their daily life/career. But it's hard -- especially since homeschooling is "newly" accepted by me, and unschooling even newer!
What do people need? People need what they use. And they learn what they need by using it.
The things they don't use are the things they don't need.
What most people don't understand about learning is that you don't need to understand something in order to use it. You learn how to use it as a side effect of using it.
Think about how kids learn English. They have no clue how to use English when they're born. In fact they don't even know what language is. But they find bits and pieces of English -- and other tools like pointing -- useful to get what they need. Saying "ook" gets them milk more efficiently than crying. So, as they use "ook" and get feedback -- like Mom saying "Oh, you want some milk?" -- they get better at English as a side effect. We don't need to explain the proper rules of English to them before they start using it. English is just there and they pick up the parts that look useful for what they want to get. They don't even need to use English properly. But properly does come along as a side effect of using English. As they use English they find ways that work better to get what they want.
Learning works that way for math and science and history.
But those subjects -- like English -- aren't actually things to learn. They're tools to help you do something else. You don't need to know the right way to use a tool to use it. You just use it to get something else. How well the project turns out gives you feedback on using the tools better.
My daughter asks how long until Daddy gets home. We use math as a tool to figure that out. The point isn't the math. The point is finding out "how long until." Math is a tool we use to figure out "how long until." Using math and being exposed to math is a side effect of wanting to know "how long until."
A hammer is a tool, not the point. The point is to build a bird house. How well the nails go in gives us feedback on how to build the house better and, as a side effect, how to use a hammer better. But the point is never the hammer. It's always what you're using the hammer to make.