Acorn house was born 17 years ago. At that time I was a mum of two children, and soon discovered that I was pregnant with my third child.

It all started from a desire to give to my children a healthy place to grow up in and develop experiences. At that time they were 2 and 5 years old and I believed in a holistic education, in the value of providing a supportive, exploratory, enjoyable education experience, as the solid foundation for a positive relationship with education to be continued throughout their future lives. I was aware of the importance of acquiring English language from a very young age, coming myself from a multicultural family and being aware of the importance to be able to communicate with people coming from different countries, belonging to different cultures. I was aware of the importance of play, socialisation and self-esteem in preparation for becoming an empathic, curious individual open to learning and ready for challenges. I soon developed a strong interest in education and searched for a place where to nurture my children.
17 years ago I contacted Emma Mantripp and asked her if she was interested in helping me to open a “new” educational setting.

A place where priority is given to each child’s developmental stage and needs, a place with a philosophy based around creativity, socialisation, language development, expression and learning - all combined within a fairy-tale environment of realistic freedom. A profound link connected Emma to me, despite the age difference and the different roots we belonged to. We both had similar experiences during our childhood, we both had personally experimented the benefit of an explorative childhood, in contact with nature, exposed to autonomy and risk taking. We were both aware that feelings of accomplishment, independence, responsibility, trust and respect are attained less naturally by children nowadays, with many unable to have opportunities to organise their own play in a natural environment. We both valued the possibility of offering this kind of natural exploration and freedom to children alongside the academic stimulus of a dual curriculum.

She accepted the challenge. She agreed to dedicate her life to this educational project at my side. She would be the wind beneath my wings. Initially, we founded Acorn House together with just 7 children. We settled on an environment for educating those children: within one area of house where I lived at that time with my family. I opened my home to other children and their parents. We believed it was possible. We worked hard. We kept studying and researching. We never stopped reflecting to improve the direction taken, we kept on trusting each other and have been always open to listen to the children's and colleagues’ voices.

We both felt a responsibility to provide opportunities which encourage children to adopt a positive attitude to learning, to others and to themselves.

By 2006, the system upon which to lay the foundations of enjoyment for learning had been consolidated. We were in a position to consider the parents’ request to stretch our commitment by applying our methodologies and approaches within a primary and secondary setting. The father of my children, Carlo Gandelli, fully supported the project growing inside our house and our family and allowed me to dedicate my life to Acorn House development, finding and offering practical solutions when needed.

Today Emma and I are proud of the success of our constructivist approach and of the motivation, curiosity and determination to achieve that is demonstrated by our students. We share our vision and work ethic with a team of 24 qualified and committed teachers, supported by 10 staff members who coordinate the community life that runs alongside the daily learning. We are still committed to our work ethic, enjoy learning and always search for ways to improve.

Michaela Diena

Acorn House initial founding members.