Thoreau College Semester Program

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Rooted in the hills and valleys of western Wisconsin, the Thoreau College Semester Program is an opportunity for young adults to discover their own essential facts of life, engaging with the existential questions of our time through thoughtful study of great books and natural phenomena, manual labor, wilderness expeditions, and solos, community self-governance, contemplative inner development, and artistic practice.

Inspired by Thoreau’s experiment at Walden Pond, by Deep Springs College, and by a Waldorf education, the program integrates a wide variety of experiences into an expanded liberal arts curriculum, designed to create a space for students to become deeply grounded in themselves, the world, and the work they are called to do. In the context of a supportive community of fellow seekers, students will have a chance to enter deeply — head, heart, and hands — into what it means to be a human being today.

Join us in Viroqua, Wisconsin!

  • Biodynamic gardening, permaculture, and sustainable agriculture
  • Environmental philosophy and history of consciousness
  • Community self-governance and communication skills
  • Visual arts, creative writing, and manual homesteading skills
  • Wilderness expeditions and solos

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Questions & Answers


9.33 Rating
based on 3 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 66.67%
  • 7-8 rating 33.33%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
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  • Housing 9.7
  • Support 9
  • Fun 9
  • Value 9.7
  • Safety 8.3
Showing 1 - 3 of 3
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Yes, I recommend this program

So Thankful!

What I value most about this program is the attention to growth of the whole human spirit, head heart and hands. Unlike other educational experiences, this program facilitated and valued inner development and community building while we studied literature and a broad range of physical and artistic skills. This program is intensive but incorporates lots of time for reflection on what we're learning, about the natural world and ourselves. Every month we embarked on a 24 hour solo expedition in the beautiful woods of the driftless region, often with prompts for reflection. Those experiences were difficult at times, being alone with your thoughts can bring up issues or experiences you haven't worked through in your life that you may not have known you were avoiding, I would describe the solos as emotional, grounding, and empowering. This program was balanced between intensive educational experiences and time to integrate them.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Dive deep into your experiences with an open mind and heart, this program is for you to ground yourself, to learn and grow in a wonderful thoughtful community. I am so thankful I participated in this program after graduating high school, what I learned about communication, my self, and this amazing planet, has been priceless for me. What a wonderful to start my life!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Living contented in all aspects of your being

As one of many people who wish to live simply, I took this course to learn to live in a way that nurtures all aspects of myself. I learned to live in community, to communicate, be seen and heard. I learned all sorts of practical skills such as roofing, gardening, bread making, fermenting (kimchi, kombucha, immune boosting fire cider, etc) and I had so much fun! I went on a 24 hour solo every month bringing only bare necessities in the quiet solitude of beautiful driftless seasons and landscapes. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

What was your funniest moment?
On my first 24 hour solo in the woods I had built a fire in hopes the smoke would keep the bugs away. And with having a fire you need to be collecting a lot of fire wood, I found a good dry heavy log that I thought would be perfect and burn for a long time. Turns out the log was a home to a large ant colony that as soon as the log was placed in my fire had ants swarming out towards my shelter. I pulled the log off the fire and then spent the next hour digging a trench around my camp and attempting to detour the ants with a stick and guide them away from me. It was scary but also hilarious.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A Microcosm of Life

How do you review something that affected you so deeply you’re still catching up, and think you will be for years? How do you review something that is a picture of life? That moves with the seasons and takes you from one task to another in a rhythm that feels natural as breathing?
The last five months of my life have seen me engaging deeply and mindfully with my Humanity in ways I thought I had been in the past, but now don't believe I truly was. Thoreau College allowed me to open myself to possibilities I had written off, and to think about things in ways I never would have dreamed of. The program kept me guessing and filled me with wonder every day as my mind bent over new readings and rejoiced at the things sprouting in our garden. It held me in awe at feeling so small yet mighty on my solos in the woods, and so vast and connected when I looked up the star-bright sky of this small town I've grown to love. Thoreau College made me work deeply and vulnerably with people in ways I rarely have before; to form a strong and abiding community and love for them and with them that I believe will last a lifetime. Thoreau College taught me how to make a home, and how to live in it on every level as the most whole me I know how to be.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
During our wild foods session, we caught and stir-fried grasshoppers. They were a little daunting in their unusuality but actually pretty tasty after I got over my initial squeamishness.