What's the right type of school for an introverted child?
Exploring your shy and quiet child's potential fit in 10 different school types
Kids vary widely in their sociability: while some are extroverted or outgoing, others aren’t. Don’t underestimate the importance of your child’s social tendencies on school choice: they can play a big role in finding the right fit.
Introverted kids are on the shy side. They tend to be quiet in class, rarely speaking up or initiating interaction with their peers (and sometimes teachers).
Below, we identify key points you should reflect on when considering 10 different school types for your introverted child. Note: our aim isn’t to tell you whether a school type is right or wrong for you, but to highlight some critical factors you should consider when making your decision.
To learn about how to choose the right school in general, read the Our Kids’ step-by-step advice guide and our expert tips. To get school-choice advice customized to your child's unique traits, create a child profile through your user account.
Introverted kids’ fit in 10 school types
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- Small school (150 students or less)
- Big school (151+ students)
- Coed school
- Girls' school
- Boys' school
- Montessori school
- Reggio Emilia school
- International Baccalaureate school
- Language immersion school
- Boarding school
Small school (150 students or less)
Smaller schools often have small classrooms and tight-knit communities, which can make it easier for your introverted child to come out of their shell, make friends, and feel like they belong. Since they’re less socially overwhelming, your child should find it easier to navigate their social environment. And since they’re conducive to group work, small classes often have plenty of interaction, which can help your child develop critical interpersonal skills.
Of course, small schools normally have a less diverse student population than big schools, which can sometimes make it more challenging to find a group of like-minded peers—peers with similar personalities, interests, values, etc. This makes it especially important to ask a school about its extracurricular programs, which can help your introverted child establish an intimate social circle.
Big school (151+ students)
Make sure any prospective school, no matter what size, provides the right social environment to help your child feel at home, make friends, and develop confidence. This is especially important at big schools, which are sometimes more socially overwhelming and challenging for an introvert to find their bearings in. Of course, “Because larger schools usually have a more diverse student population, introverted kids are more likely to find a small group of people like them, a peer group they can relate to and find acceptance from,” says Dona Matthews, Toronto-based education consultant and co-author (with Joanne Foster) of Beyond Intelligence.
Bigger schools often have a broader scope of extracurricular activities, which is another way to help your child meet the right group of friends. “This may also give them the opportunity to develop certain skills,” say Ann and Karen Wolff of Wolff Educational Services. “For instance, they might run for student council to develop leadership and public speaking skills and learn to be a voice for other students. Remember, though, each child is different—so what works for one may not work for another.”
By going to school with boys and girls, your introverted child will have a wider range of social experiences: many kids appreciate the opportunity to learn from the perspectives of both boys and girls. As one parent told us: “My son really enjoyed spending time and making friends with boys and girls, which he rarely did outside of class. He also learned a lot about how girls and boys sometimes react differently in certain situations.”
Of course, coed schools require your child to negotiate the complexities of boy-girl interactions, which is challenging for any child (especially introverts), and can sometimes lead to distraction, inhibition, and other social issues. To ensure a school is the right fit, ask what kind of social support systems it has in place: e.g., guidance counsellors, psychologists, faculty advisors, etc.
In a girls-only school, your introverted daughter can focus on her studies free from the distractions of a boy-girl environment. She may also find it easier to find a close group of friends without the intense pressure that goes with interacting with and navigating relationships with the other gender.
In fact, some girls blossom in an all-girls setting. “When she first started, she never raised her hand and didn't want to try anything new,” says Catherine Wang, mother of Skyler, a student at an all-girls school. “And now coming out of this first year, she's happy, she’s excited, and enthusiastic to try new things. She’s willing to put up her hand. She’s getting in front of people and doing oral presentations and school plays.”
Of course, since your daughter won’t be learning with boys, aim to give her many opportunities to interact with them outside of school, so she can gain a wider scope of social experiences, where she’ll learn from the perspectives of girls and boys.
In a boys-only school, your introverted son can seek out and interact with different peer groups free from the distractions of a boy-girl environment. He’ll likely find it easier to come out of his shell and make like-minded friends without the intense pressure associated with navigating relationships with the other gender.
Just make sure any school you’re considering isn’t too focused on high energy and outgoing boys. While your son may enjoy the many group and physical activities offered in a boys-only environment, he may also sometimes prefer to sit quietly and read a book. Ensure he’ll have ample opportunity to do this.
Also, since your son won’t be learning with girls, aim to give him many opportunities to interact with them outside of school, so he can gain a wider scope of social experiences, where he'll learn from the perspective of boys and girls.
At a Montessori school, your introverted child will often work independently on their own tasks, e.g., during two-hour-plus uninterrupted work periods, which can boost their focus and concentration. They’ll also often work in small groups with kids of different ages, where they’ll learn from and mentor their peers, which can help them come out of their shell, be more assertive, and learn critical social skills. Ask how much, if any, unstructured social time is provided, since this varies between Montessori schools.
Reggio Emilia school
In Reggio Emilia schools, teachers consider each child’s relationship to one another and aim to promote positive connections between them, a blessing for introverted kids (as it is for extroverted kids). The warm, community feel of the Reggio classroom—which is set up to promote lots of interaction—can enable your child to feel at home, connect with classmates, and overcome their shyness. Given the social and dynamic environment of the Reggio classroom, make sure your child will get enough time on their own, in and out of class, to replenish their energy and psychological resources.
International Baccalaureate school
IB schools give your child the opportunity to interact and spend time with a bright, motivated, and ambitious group of kids who may have interests similar to them. Due to the IB’s heavy focus on group work, the programme offers a social and collaborative learning environment, which can help your introverted child overcome their shyness and get to know their peers well. This can relieve some of the pressure associated with having to take the initiative outside of class to make friends.
Just make sure any school you're considering offers enough independent work time for your introverted child—something which can vary widely between IB schools.
Language immersion school
If you’re considering a language immersion school for your introverted child, make sure it offers plenty of social opportunities, including the ability to interact with different peer groups outside of class. Since most of your child’s learning won’t be in their mother tongue, they may find it challenging at times to negotiate the complexities of social interaction in the classroom. This makes it especially important to ensure the school offers extensive extracurriculars—such as student council, volunteering, and team sports—which can enable your child to connect with peers, make new friends outside of class, overcome their shyness, and develop critical social skills.
At a boarding school, your introverted child will be more motivated (and virtually compelled) to seek out and interact with different peer groups. Away from home and in a new environment, they’re more likely to take the initiative to form close friendships, which can boost their independence and confidence, and help them develop critical social skills.
"Consider, though, whether your child will be comfortable and confident while living away from home, and while having to navigate the various, and sometimes unforeseen social-emotional experiences, alongside the academic challenges,” says Joanne Foster, education expert and author of ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids. Finally, ensure support systems are in place to promote their social and emotional development, and that your child is willing and prepared to take advantage of them. Your child will often need to advocate for themselves at a boarding school, and they’ll need confidence and perseverance to do so.
Introverted kids’ school fit: key take-homes
- While big schools can sometimes be more socially overwhelming for introverted kids, their diverse student population can make it easier for your child to find a group of peers with similar interests, values, etc. Small schools, meanwhile, often have smaller classes with tight-knit communities, which can help your introverted child come out of their shell and form close friendships.
- It can sometimes be challenging for introverts to navigate boy-girl relations in a coed school, though they’ll benefit from learning from the perspectives of both genders. In a single-gender school, meanwhile, your son or daughter can focus on school and social development without the distraction of the boy-girl dynamic.
- At a Montessori school, your child will often work independently on their own tasks, e.g., during two-hour-plus uninterrupted work periods, which many shy and introverted kids enjoy.
- The warm, community feel of the Reggio Emilia classroom—which is set up to promote lots of interaction—can help your child to feel at home, connect with classmates, and make friends more easily.