Kids with dyslexia and tough work schedules: The Martials brace themselves for back-to-school

By Tara Drinks

Return to physical school or continue distance learning? It’s a question many families, including the Martials of Hastings, New York, are struggling to answer.

Since the pandemic began, Karina has been juggling it all. She’s a single mom of three kids — 17-year-old Kalani and twins Amelie and Isla, who are 12. During the school shutdown last spring, she had to add “teaching” to her daily list of tasks, on top of doing her own job from home.

Distance learning was tough for the family. Amelie and Isla both have dyslexia and get special instruction. Karina, a school psychologist, already has some early thoughts on how they’ll manage school in the fall.

Here, Karina Martial tells her story to writer Tara Drinks.


It was a very different experience for us, to say the least. I was nervous about distance learning at first. Both Amelie and Isla have dyslexia and follow an IEP. They have some general classes and some smaller classes where they receive special instruction for reading and math.

Their general education teachers tried their best to accommodate them, but they had a lot more students to manage than usual. So, the pressure of guiding them through their studies mainly fell on me. Thankfully we made the best of it and worked together, but I’m a bit nervous about the effect this will have on them in the long run. 

Amelie and Isla really want to be back with their friends — especially after the recent moments of racial injustice. I’ve always talked openly about race with my kids, mainly because we live in a white town. Of course, I’ve had to talk differently with my son than I do with the girls. My son is older and so he understands race a bit more than his sisters do.

With my girls, I‘m gentler. They’re at an age now where they want to be like everyone else. So, lately I’ve been reminding them about our culture more. We’ve watched movies together and even participated in Black Lives Matter protests in our community.

I’m very nervous about the fall, both for myself and for my kids. The school district has told us of three options for going back to school. One is learning in person, the other is to continue distance learning, and the last option is a combination of the two options.

I work full-time for a school and so if our schedules don’t match up, I really don’t know what I’m going to do. Typically, I have help from their grandparents. But as much as my 82-year-old dad loves to see them off to school, I can’t risk it.

I do know that I can’t just leave them all at home. That would be chaos and I don’t even want to begin to think about that. Their dad is an emergency room social worker and works evenings. One option is to rely on him to help out during the day. (That would at least be supervised chaos!) But we won’t really know for sure until a decision is made by New York State.

For now, we’re enjoying what’s left of the summer. We were all Zoomed out, if I’m being honest. The kids are always happy when school’s out, but they were especially happy to be done this year. And I was, too.


Wondering how other families are juggling the quarantine? Visit our YouTube channel to check out our Quarantine Chronicles series.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Tara Drinks is an associate editor at Understood.