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More than their physical development, is their emotional development. My son was quite capable of passing 2nd grade math tests when he was 4. If all we looked at was academics, he really should not have been anywhere near a kindergarten class. However, he was not emotionally mature enough to move up three grades. How much you can teach at once, the kids tolerance for repetition whenever they already understand what has been explained, their reactions to frustration and happiness... Having kids of different ages that are ready for the same material is challenging.

I think the future is more automated, independent learning. At my kid's school, a good chunk of the math curriculum is taught by computer. They go to a lab, and get to play math games that change according to their success with what they've been presented already. So if a kid has trouble adding small numbers, he'll get more of those problems than a kid that has that figured out, and can move forward to adding large numbers, multiplication, division, or whatever else still challenges him, regardless of his age.

This also handles attention span issues. If a kid can be challenged with new exercises and learn for an hour and a half straight, great. If another one has trouble learning new material late in a class, he will do worse, and face easier material as the class goes along.

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