It's occurred to me that we can borrow some ideas from those who sew. Very beginners in sewing, are not expected to sew up a piece of clothing as their first attempts. The traditional manner in which people learning to sew were "samplers". Before using a sewing machine the learner would practice the hand sewing stitches on a piece of fabric. They would start with the most basic stitch and practice it one after the other, until it became consistent and perfect; then move on to other stitches. In this manner, they learn to manipulate the needle and the fabric to achieve the desired results. They learn the required hand-eye coordination. The piece of fabric that they practiced on became a "sampler".hat they practiced on became a "sampler".
We in the wood carving area can do like wise. We shouldn't expect a beginner to pick up a knife and carve a figure of Christ or even Santa. What we may want to do is provide exercises that enable the learner to practice the basic knife cuts. Let the learner start with and practice manipulations of the knife and wood. Much can be learned by sitting a spell with a piece of wood and your knife. You will learn the limits of the wood and how the knife best cuts. You learn where the knife tip is at all times. By just sittin and relaxin with a piece of wood and your knife, makin various cuts you can try to and improve each of the basic knife cuts. You will be able to see the difference between clean knife cuts and fuzzy cuts. Learn your knife before trying to carve a figure.