Chris Oldenburg has always home-schooled her three sons, ages 10 to 15. So while they played lots of sports, they’d never had a formal taste of gym class.

Until this fall, when Matthew Buns, an assistant professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato, called with a proposition.

He was looking for a way to help his own students, who are training to be physical-education teachers, get some practical experience. He wondered if any home-school families in the area would be interested in volunteering their children.

The result was a six-week program that debuted this fall, when more than 60 home-school kids went to the Mankato campus to help teach the teachers.

“It was really a win-win situation,” said Oldenburg, who leads a group of home-schooling families in the Mankato area.

Buns said he knows of only a few programs like it in the country, but “I think there’s a tremendous opportunity for it.” This way, he said, both the student teachers and the home-schoolers get a chance to learn from one another.

Ordinarily, Buns said, students in this particular class — on teaching methods — would practice on “other college students pretending to be kids.” But in this case, they found out what happens when the theories bump up against real children.

“This program really throws them right in the fire,” he said. “They may have planned the most beautiful lesson, but then they learned it’s just not developmentally appropriate for the age they’re working with.”

The home-schoolers, meanwhile, were able to use the university’s athletic facilities and were taught skills tailored to their age groups, ranging from kindergarten to high school. “It’s structured physical education that they weren’t currently receiving,” he said.

Oldenburg said her sons play football, baseball and other sports, and stay plenty active. But she said they loved the chance to try something new as part of the program, which is expected to resume next semester. “They already said, ‘When are we starting again?’ ”