Journey to Israel & Homeschool History - St. Jerome

This year, the twins and I have been studying early church history using Mystery of History, Volume II. Six weeks into our school year we learned about St. Jerome’s translation of the Vulgate Bible. Jerome’s name sounded familiar. Didn’t I see something about him in Bethlehem?

The girls’ history lesson mentioned that Jerome had lived in Bethlehem for a time. He had stayed in a “cell-like cave” for many years. Wait, had I seen it?

A little online digging confirmed that I had caught a glimpse of it on our Israel trip. St. Jerome’s Cave lies beneath a courtyard at the Church of the Nativity.

Most days I assign the girls a short history project to extend their learning. In lieu of the options suggested in the book that day, we gathered around my computer to look through pictures of my visit to Bethlehem.

After visiting the Grotto of the Nativity, my husband and I had stepped outside into a courtyard surrounded by covered walkways. Our tour guide showed us an iron grate below the collonade.

Peering through the lattice-like grate, we could see people gathered below, touring the cave.

Centuries earlier, Jerome had lived in that very grotto while translating the Scriptures into the Latin Vulgate. He was so dedicated to his task that he did not leave the cave until the project was complete. Other monks brought him food and water while he completed the difficult job of translation.

It would be fascinating to traverse the underground grotto and see the place firsthand. Perhaps we can do that on our next trip to Israel.

Looking toward the center of the courtyard, we glimpsed a statue of St. Jerome.

Nearby, in a niche near the church entrance, stood a smaller statue of St. George and the Dragon.

Though I had forgotten about the statue, the girls were excited to see the picture I had snapped. Their Mystery of History textbook had mentioned him during the previous week’s lessons.

Our visit to Bethlehem had ended with shopping at one of the Bethlehem markets.

Unfortunately, my husband and I were not impressed with the offerings at the store. We wished we had taken time to buy more souvenirs at some of the gift shops we had encountered earlier. The products at the Bethlehem shop seemed a bit overpriced considering their quality. We only purchased a small keychain for my oldest daughter. Then we climbed aboard the bus to return to our hotel.

Sharing pictures from my Israel trip as part of the twins’ history lesson was a real treat. I never imagined how beneficial my experiences in Israel would be for our homeschool. That day was the second time my Israel pictures had supplemented our curriculum. Three weeks earlier, the girls had learned about Masada, a location my husband and I visited on our final day in Israel.

My girls enjoyed seeing pictures from our trip to Israel. At what age should kids experience another culture firsthand on a tour like the one my husband and I took? Share your thoughts in the comments.