Yes, we let Elisheva take "mental health days" off school... and no, it's not overly permissive parenting. (chas v'shalom!)
First of all, she only gets THREE mental health days a year. Do you know how many days there are in a school year? Typically, she blows hers very early on in the year.
YM was much more careful - when he had them - about saving them up and spacing them out evenly. Unfortunately, because of the authority structure of his school, I have had to tell him I can't support his taking mental-health days unless his rosh yeshiva approves the concept in principle. So far this year and last, he hasn't asked.
Second of all, very simple rules: she cannot take a day with a test or the day a major assignment is due. I have no way to check on this, but she's conscientious enough to realize that only she would suffer (the very next day!) if she missed anything important. She also has to let me know at least a day ahead of time; she can't wake up and decide not to go.
I would rather give her the flexibility to just say she's not going, rather than having to fake being sick. As an employee, way back when I was working and getting paid, I would have loved the ability to be honest with my employer instead of phoning in faking a cough. And I'd love it now for Ted so he wouldn't have to fake a cough when I get sick and can't look after the kids!
The idea first came from a psychologist we saw for a while... she mentioned she did it with her own kids. That was quite a few years ago, and we haven't seen her in years, so I haven't had a chance to ask if it applies to high school. But I don't see why not. If anything, they ought to be more responsible with the privilege than younger kids are.
As a semi-homeschooling parent (2 kids out of 4!), I think I see more clearly than most parents what school does to kids... how it oppresses them and grinds them down in a "school-of-hard-knocks" kind of way that no civilized workplace legally could (for those who think it's training them for "the real world")... and without the benefit of a paycheque to go along with the degradation. School simply is not a good metaphor for society at large, nor does it accomodate those who just need some breathing space on any given day.
The sad truth is that Elisheva ends just about every mental health day in tears because the day was so precious, so fleeting... and now it's gone and she still has a ton of weight on her shoulders and a ton of stuff to do. Not exactly remorse that she's misspent the time, just really tired and overwhelmingly sad that the day had to come to an end. Funny; she loves school, would never in a million years even consider homeschooling (which she considers appropriate only for be-sandaled crunchy families who eat too much bran). To me, it would seem the ideal solution: don't like school? never go back!
It can't be remorse because sometimes (like today), she does almost exactly what she likes almost the entire day - hours at the library, lying on my bed watching a DVD, drinking tea, making her own lunch and eating it in the silence of an empty house...
...oh, okay, that's my fantasy - and YES, I was irked beyond belief that she got to do it (while we were out at Hebrew Circle Time) and I didn't.
So you know what I did? Smart mama! I told her she could watch her DVD on my bed if and ONLY IF:
a) she made up her trundle bed so Naomi could nap in there instead of on my bed like usual, and
b) took the littles outside to frolic for no less than fifteen minutes so I could have my lunch in peace.
And she did! (I mean, look at what she stood to gain; she'd have been stupid not to)
There we go! Along with Elisheva enjoying her own fantasy of a day, I got to have a lovely lunch (crumpets and instant miso soup and a game of Bejeweled) in the peace and quiet of my very own deserted home, the sound of three shrieking children, large and small, frolicking up and down the driveway.
Ahhh...that really is the life.