I just started Sporty's Learn to Fly online course for ground school, with ASA's "The Complete Private Pilot" by Bob Gardner for supplementary material. I've been fascinated by planes since around age 7 and flew with my Aviation Club in high school from 1997 through 2001.
Question: Is it possible to go through my entire ground school training and FAA Knowledge Exam without CFI assistance? I, like many people, don't have the money (yet) for an instructor, so I can't exactly call someone up and ask questions when I get confused. How should I handle that? Thank you and fly safe!
You don't need a CFI to complete your ground and knowledge test,
You do need an instructor (CFI or Ground Instructor) involved to take the written since an instructor's endorsement is necessary to be eligible for the written. Most of the commercial on-line ground schools have an in-house instructor to provide that endorsement upon successful completion of the program (including some sort of end-of-course exam), but you will have to work with an authorized instructor at some point before you can take the written.
See 14 CFR 61.35(a)(1) and 61.103(d).
Good job on starting pursuit of your license even though you can't start flying yet. But like the other comments, would be helpful to get a couple lessons now. It might boost your motivation to find a way to start flying sooner! You don't need a CFI to complete your ground and knowledge test, just study hard and use all the many free references out there, including google. Also there are several
CFIs doing classes via zoom which is cheaper than in person and I think just as effective.
I tell my students when they start that there are really 3 paths they need to go down for the knowledge part of the PPL. First is what you are doing now which is learning the basics. Second is specific prep for the knowledge test by taking frequent practice tests which identify any weak areas and stress the important areas that you need to know. And last is the intense studying that you will do for the oral portion of the checkride, something that many don't expect. All of these are obviously about the same subject material but just focused differently.
Hang in there and good luck!
Routinely throughout my training, I heard alot of feedback from my own CFI as well as my stage-check CFIs that my ground knowledge was exceptional. I credit that to using both programs, and as others have mentioned, questions will arise no matter which ground school method you choose. I found that being able to cross-reference one source against another was helpful. Sporty's online "ask a CFI" was never functional for me; emails and messages just went unanswered. But it was beneficial to be able to bring the Sporty's lessons into my CFI on my iPad, show him what I had trouble understanding, and get a better explanation. The same thing worked in the opposite direction; when I didn't understand what my CFI was explaining, Sporty's was able to fill in some gaps.
I'll vouch for the others' comments, too, that ground school is best accomplished while simultaneously taking flight lessons. In my experience, there were more than a few "ah ha!" moments in the air when a ground lesson kicked in. Crosswind landings and forward slips are but two examples ... until you try it in the air with the ground lesson fresh in your mind, the ground lessons will have little meaning.
Lastly, I'll repeat the previous suggestion: if you're going to attempt ground school on your own, then don't go it alone. One thing I might offer as a suggestion is to connect with other students. In my program, all instruction was offered one-on-one and I lamented that being able to learn from other students would have been advantageous. Students share a commonality in that they are laypersons, and even the best CFIs cannot always make the connection between the lesson material and a student's brain. For me, it would have been quite helpful to talk to another student who might have explained things in plain English and share their own ah-ha moments. I'm sure there are multiple flying clubs around suburban Chicago and maybe even the AOPA discussion board can connect students with each other.
Good luck, and enjoy the adventure! It's worth the effort!
For others reading this thread, another route is to study for and successfully pass the Advanced Ground Instructor exam. The AGI exam does not require any endorsement. Check in advance with your CFI and gain assurance that they will then grant your endorsement to take the PPL written. No better proof of having completed adequate study than passing the AGI. The knowledge gained makes preparation for the AGI exam is well worth the effort. I studied Gleim and then switched to Dauntless for example test material. You will learn a lot along the way and PPL exam preparation will be super easy.
As an additional thought, for those who have the budget, investing in a good simulator will save you lots of hours in real world training. The sim will pay for itself in very short order and be available for further training thereafter for years and years. PM to me if anyone wants details on hardware and software.