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This page was last updated: August 21, 2020

Me, Myself and I
by Marisa Natale

Ego:  Noun, defined in Philosophy as a conscious, thinking subject.  Ayn Rand described her lyrical and profound novel, Anthem, as “the meaning of man’s ego.”  Though individualism is no strange concept coming from the founder of Objectivism, Anthem’s message fully embodies her philosophies.  It exemplifies the ways in which man’s independence flourishes when released from the chains of a society that values uniformity above individualism. 
Anthem opens upon a dystopian future – a society closed to progress, innovation and individuality.  All participants in this society refer to themselves as “we”, conforming to the society’s belief that “we are nothing…we exist through, by and for our brothers”. (1.15)  Anthem’s society believes that everything must be the same for anything to be good.  Nobody can be better than anyone else, to be singular is a sin, and anything that is not thought or done for the community should not be thought, should not be done.
The protagonist, Equality 7-2521, finds himself separate from the masses.  He has an independent mind – he is curious and quick, and is developing an acute sense of self. When he was a young boy, the Saint of the Pyre planted this seed of independence in Equality. Despite these gifts, he is a victim of his own indoctrination, filled with guilt and conflict about his thoughts and abilities.  “This is a great sin, to be born with a head which is too quick. It is not good to be different…but it is evil to be superior.” (1.17)
But an intelligent mind cannot easily be silenced, and Equality finds himself yearning for a life of knowledge and scholarly exploration.  He sneaks away, conducting experiments and making discoveries in an underground tunnel he found while working.  His nights are spent there, alone. This is Equality’s first foray into direct rebellion.
Equality’s transgressions don’t end there.  One day, as he is street sweeping, he spies a woman planting seed, and approaches her.  As the days pass, he continues to see her, and Rand implies that Equality and the woman, Liberty, are in love – committing what Anthem’s society calls “the sin of preference”.  They even name each other – she “the Golden One”, and he “the Unconquered”.  Equality’s love is another milestone in his journey towards egoism, and away from the restraints society imposes.
Spending his nights in the tunnels, Equality “discovers” electricity.  “We could not conceive of that which we had created.  We had made no fire.  Yet here was light, light that came from nowhere, light from the heart of metal.” (5.4)  Astounded by his discovery, Equality decides that he must take his creation to the Scholars, hopeful that they will forgive his transgressions in light of his astonishing invention.
Equality understands that any man save the Scholars would surely destroy him and his creation, and he has a realization, one that brings him ever closer to being his own man – he cares about himself.  “For the first time do we care about our body.  For this wire is a part of our body, as a vein torn from us, glowing with our blood.” (5.10) Even when he takes his construction to the Scholars, and they threaten him with punishment, Equality’s only concern is for his creation.  "Let the will of the Council be done upon our body…. But…what will you do with the light?" (7.31)
          Upon seeing that the Scholars care not for him or his invention, Equality escapes to the Uncharted Forest, a place forbidden to men. “We have torn ourselves from the truth which is our brother men, and there is no road back for us…. We know these things, but we do not care.” (7.57-58)
Equality’s hope comes from knowledge, from his invention, his relationship with his creation aiding him in his journey towards Rand’s ideal of egoism.  He finally admits his selfish intentions behind the creation of the light.  “The glass box is like a living heart that gives us strength.... We have not built this box for the good of our brothers.  We built it for its own sake.  It is above all our brothers to us, and its truth above their truth.” (7.59)
          The next day, when Equality awakens, he realizes his true, human potential.  He explores his surroundings, testing the limits of a body he is only newly conscious of as being his alone.  Now that Equality is out from under the yoke of his brethren, filled with his own knowledge and unique abilities, he is physically stronger than ever – symbolic of the ways in which men thrive when freed from society’s imposed obligations.
          As he explores, Equality discovers the Golden One following him.  She has braved the dangers of the fo rest, cutting herself away from civilization to follow her love to freedom. Together, they find an abandoned home and make it their own, learning from the books they find there.  Equality begins reading, and there, he makes his final leap to egoism, during which he realizes his own power as a man; he discovers the word “I”.  “It is my eyes which see, and the sight of my eyes grants beauty to the earth.  It is my ears which hear, and the hearing of my ears gives its song to the world.  It is my mind which thinks, and the judgment of my mind is the only searchlight that can find the truth.” (11.5)  There, he discovers the Unspeakable Word – Ego.
          He plans to return to the city, to invite several people to create a new, free civilization with him.  Equality recognizes the spark of humanity within them, much like the Saint of the Pyre recognized it in him.  International 4-8818 had discovered the tunnels with Equality, and kept the discovery secret, a quiet act of defiance against the Councils. “But International…are different…their eyes are like fireflies, for there is laughter in their eyes.”(1.36)  He includes Fraternity 2-5503, who feels his forbidden emotions so strongly, he cries without reason, and Solidarity 9-6347, so trapped and haunted by his oppression that he screams out in the night.
          When Rand says that Anthem is “the meaning of man’s ego”, she simply means that.  Individualism is the strength of humanity.  Each man should be the center of his own universe.  Knowledge and independent thought transform Equality from a creature of indoctrination to a man, full in his own being and following his own interests.  Collectivism is a poison, which seeps into the bones of civilization and destroys the very thing that makes us human.  “The word ‘We’ is as lime poured over men, which…crushes all beneath it.” (11.16)  It is the mighty taker, the worship of which forced men to submission.  “He gave up all he had won, and fell lower than his savage beginning.  What brought it to pass?….  The worship of the word "We.”” (12.17-18)
         Anthem sings the praises of the individual spirit, and the importance of following one’s own desires.  Rand’s message is a liberating call to freedom and individualism, insightful and inspiring. She stresses the importance of independence and selfishness as crucial to the maintenance of the progression of humanity.  “To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. That is freedom. That and nothing else.”(12.15) 

Classic Literature Class 2011
  Congratualtions Marisa!!  
     As part of the Classic Literature Class, Marisa placed as a Semi-finalist (out of approximately 15,000 international entrants) in the Ayn Rand "Anthem" Essay Contest this year!
 Marisa's winning essay was in response to the following essay prompt:

"Anthem’s theme is, in Ayn Rand’s own words, "the meaning of man’s ego." Explain the ways in which the characters and story in Anthem illustrate this theme."
Living for the State is Not to Live at All
by Marisa Natale

We the Living is Ayn Rand’s exposé of the horrifying consequences of Communist principles on an individual's spirit. Kira Argounova is a staunch egoist, keenly aware of the dangers of and disgusted by the morals of communism. In her forward, Ayn Rand states, “Kira, the heroine, is me…. The specific events of Kira’s life are not mine; her ideas, her convictions, her values were and are.” Rand was a loyal capitalist, individualist and celebrant of mankind.      
     Kira shows herself, throughout the novel, to be faithful to the same ethics. The words and events of We the Living embody Rand’s philosophies through Kira’s words and actions.
Communism was a philosophy Rand despised, and it ends up destroying many of the novel’s main characters. Kira watched her family disintegrate, now disparagingly labeled bourgeoisie, broken under the strain of Communism’s burden, unable to go on fighting for a life they are not allowed to truly live. Her mother becomes a propagandist. Her sister is prone to random fits of panic and sobbing. Her uncle simply falls apart, starting out with his convictions strong and his rebellious spirit aflame; by the end of the novel, Vasili Ivanovitch remains the shell of a man he was. Andrei takes his own life, disillusioned and hopeless about the future of a regime he fought so hard for – only to discover it lay on a foundation of oppression and greed. Kira herself is unable to continue on with her aspiration to be an architect and instead must work for the government to survive. When she takes her life into her own hands and attempts escape, she is freer than she had ever been – despite her death in the process.
     Rand’s philosophy on the institution of Communism is evident when one looks at the specific events in We the Living. Her reasons for her detestation of Communistic ideals are apparent when one begins to dissect the dialogue of the novel, especially the conversations between Rand’s protagonist, Kira and Andrei, the fiercely proletarian face of Communism. “I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say, as so many of our enemies do, that you admire our ideals, but loathe our methods.” Kira retorts, “I loathe your ideals.” Andrei believes that Kira, like many people, considers communism a noble set of principles, poorly executed.         
     Ayn Rand, however, was a philosopher who revered individualism, and would vehemently disagree with this sentiment. Communist principles are in direct conflict with her beliefs.   To Rand, a man’s life was meaningless unless he was living it only for himself. She believed a man’s life was the most sacred of possessions. To take away his freedom was to take away his ability to live for himself, a desecration on the value of life, worse than death. Communism demands the complete surrender of a man’s freedom. Kira asks Andrei, “Don’t you know that we live only for ourselves, the best of us…?  Don’t you know that there is something in us which must not be touched by any state, by any collective, by any number of millions?”  This “something” to which Rand refers is a man’s birthright freewill. In her angry tirade to Andrei near the end of the novel, when she is at her wit’s end with Communism, when she has almost lost her will to fight, she expresses that this is the only reason she considers herself alive. “Why do you think I’m alive? Because I have a stomach and eat and digest the food?.... Or because I know what I want – isn’t that life itself? And who can tell me why I should live for anything but for that which I want?”
     Communism forces men into submission, indoctrinating them that they must live for something other than that which they want. “You tore that life you knew nothing about out of their guts – and you told them what it had to be. You took their every hour, every minute, every nerve, every thought…and you told them what it had to be.” Both Kira and Ayn Rand assert that despotic regimes crush the spirit of whoever is under its thumb. “What are your masses but millions of dull, shriveled, stagnant souls that have no thoughts of their own, who eat and sleep and chew helplessly the words others put into their brains? And for those you would sacrifice the few who know life?” Kira challenges Andrei. She is fed up with having to fight for that which she believes is the most basic right that must be given to all men – the right to an authentic life.
     Communism thinks very little of this concept. It also does not believe in the power of the individual, or the worth of unique abilities and traits. When Kira goes to apply for her citizenship papers, a Soviet official says to her, “What is a citizen? Only a brick, and of no use unless cemented to other bricks just like it.” Rand abhorred these values. “I loathe your ideals,” Kira states unashamedly to Andrei, “because I know no worse injustice than the giving of the undeserved. Because men are not equal in ability and one can’t treat them as if they were.” Communism presumes all men as equal in ability and worth – dragging everyone down to the depths of incapacitation. When Kira meets her lover Leo, he despairs in this. “Who can still want to be capable?” he asks her. “It’s a curse, you know, to be able to look higher than you’re allowed to reach.” Leo is in a state of utter hopelessness, driven to desperation by the Soviet state.
     Individualism, human potential, my life to live as I choose it; these are values that Ayn Rand (and Kira) held near and dear. Communist ideals are polar opposites of Ayn Rand’s values and the philosophy she committed her life’s work to. Where some may say that Communist ideals are noble, but performed poorly by men, Rand would unquestionably disagree. So much, in fact, that she would rather her protagonist die in the snow attempting for freedom than live one more day under the rule of Communism. Communism, at its core, relies on stripping men of their inherent freedom to live for themselves. It claims the right to reach into a man and rip out that which makes him human. Rand viewed Communism as an insidious virus that poisons those who are unconscious of it. As she put it, “…they (foreigners) continue to believe that only Communist methods are evil, while Communist ideals are noble. All the victories of Communism since 1917 are due to that belief among men who are still free.”

Classic Literature Class 2011
 Placing as a Finalist in the We the Living Essay contest, Marisa's award winning essay was in response to the prompt below:

"Although the USSR has collapsed, many people still argue what was argued throughout much of the 20th century: communism is a noble theory that men unfortunately fail to live up to in practice. By reference to the story and specific events of We the Living, explain why you think the novel’s author would accept or reject this argument." 
Congradulations Marisa!! 
     A full 4 year ride
   to Clark University!!!
 
(quite an upgrade from the cardboard box -- eh??  ;)     
         Emma!!
 $48,000 scholarship
  to Clark University!
           Woot!
  Stay Awesome!!!
Molly!!

Full four year ride  UMass Dartmouth!!

Way to go Molly!!
        Mr. Sutka!!!  
Emmu - Have we come a long, long way!!    And now you want to take up the torch and teach -- I'm thrilled!!! (But I'm not giving up the torch yet -- Get your own!!)    

$10,000 a year scholarship! 
.             Not to shabby Emmanuel!
 
Good luck to those heading off to college!!!
~ 2013 Graduates ~