Parents, however, may be less ready to dive in. Their role in helping their teen get ready for these college-level courses might not be as obvious.
Karyn Dickerson, AP and IB coordinator at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina, says parents should be a support system for their child, but shouldn’t do the work for them.
“It’s kind of that concept of preparing your students for the road, but not preparing the road for your students,” she says.
While high schoolers should bear the brunt of AP and IB summer prep, parents could consider doing some of the following expert-recommended suggestions to help.
1. Ensure students have what they need to complete summer AP, IB assignments: Sometimes students have summer work for these courses, says Dickerson, who has taught AP and IB English courses. Parents should be aware of these assignments and make sure students complete them.
Teachers may assign work over the summer to get a head start – there’s a lot to cover in these courses in one year – and to see where students are academically when the course starts.
While parents shouldn’t micromanage their student’s work on these assignments, they can offer support and make sure that students have access to the resources they need to complete them, whether that’s by going to the library or purchasing books for students to annotate so they can read them more closely, says Dickerson.
Parents can help students get familiar with AP and IB course and exam content by getting a prep book for their student’s courses, she says. There are also many resources available online. And while familiarity with the topic is helpful, students don’t have to study religiously over the summer, says Ballheim, who has taught AP and IB math courses.
Families could also complete summer activities that allow students to experience some of what they will learn about, says Dickerson.
For example, students taking an AP history class could go to a relevant museum, she says. “I think it helps students picture and visualize what they’ve learned, prior to coming into the class, and they can make those connections later on.”
3. Help students develop critical thinking skills: Parents could help students work on critical thinking skills around the dinner table by facilitating conversations about current events and asking their children questions, says Dickerson.
“‘What do you think about this?’ ‘How could we address these problems?’ That’s really where the type of critical thinking that we want to see in classes start – in those conversations that kids have at home,” she says.
Hopefully, once students begin their AP and IB classes those conversations will become even richer at home, but it’s a great way to start, she says.
Dickerson has one other tip for families.
“Enjoy the summer too,” she says. “So often we want our students to get a head start, but it’s important to have some downtime, too. And that’s important for students, and that family time is critical as well.”